Community Atlas: Petroc Hills area, North Central Alarius

As mentioned with my previous map in this series (Gruvrå's Mine in Peredur), for the next, I'd be returning closer to my "home" territory in Alarius, as the map chosen to place this one in was the Alarius North Central region:

The base map from the Inkwell Ideas geomorphic dice rolls was another using just two designs from the "Delver" set, so I checked the Inkwell book for these (the "Dungeonmorph Book of Modular Encounters: Delver, Trailblazer & Voyager Edition"), finding there an interesting group of suggestions of which I ended-up using rather a lot in the final map and accompanying notes. They also influenced where the map could be placed within what is really a vast area of Alarius.

Indeed, several smaller maps have been set within the Alarius North Central region already, so I checked those. As I couldn't find quite what I was looking for among them, I decided to pick a fresh spot suitable for a new area map, on the edge of the large agricultural basin around the Elm River's headwaters (that's the river large and important enough to be shown even on the continental map above). In both the next images, the orange-outlined square of my selected area is 20 miles per side:

This is right on the edge of the "civilised" lands here, around 56° N latitude, and from the appearance of the terrain, a cool temperate spot, but not iced-in year round thanks to being sheltered by the mountains surrounding the fertile riverine plains. Then I devised a hand-drawn graph-paper map for it, with the main terrain types sketched-in, and randomly rolled up some feature options, this time chiefly using just my own random tables. These in turn led to the main watercourse layout, based on where the settlements and other points of interest were. During this process came a realisation that there were quite a few "awakened plant" and "interesting wildlife" features which fitted nicely with the loose druidic theme already generated from the Inkwell Ideas dice book.

And so to the CC3+ mapping. Following my attempts in recent maps of this group to combine more-or-less matching overland and dungeon styles, I thought it would be worth trying-out the Jon Roberts overland and dungeon styles, using the Cartographer's Annual 190 Jon Roberts Revisited overland style for the small area map:

So, welcome to the Petroc Hills! After finding I'd be having giant eagles on this map, I decided the local dialect term would be "petroc" for them, as meaning "small" or "little" roc (= gigantic bird), which also accounts in part for the repeated reuse of "roc" and "rock" in the names (because the pronunciation's the same!). As luck had it, the random locations for some of the settlements on the farmland were close to the map's southern edge, and I decided to site them right on, or extend them slightly over, that border, helping to reinforce that edge-of-civilisation theme. Plus I dislike having maps of this sort which show too marked an "edge of the world" effect. Thus of course, many hills are just peeping onto this map from beyond it too.

I found this style a delight to work with, as the terrain symbol drawings are of such high-quality, they can be greatly enlarged, yet still look superb, and I was especially pleased to find that by rescaling the farmland bitmap fill, the pattern in it would work perfectly for each diamond shape to represent the size of an individual farmstead or family group of smallholdings at this scale, without having to include every farmhouse. When it came to naming the features so-mapped, I found just the hill shapes and forms to be sufficiently inspiring, without having to resort to random tables for their names, and in some cases, their characters. And I did like that pastel grey-green, watercolour-like colouring; very restful 😎 .

However, the style's range beyond the non-terrain symbols is rather restricted, with just a single fashion of settlement types, and some basic trees, so I also used some of the Mike Schley, Herwin Wielink and standard CC3+ overland symbols to indicate others of the special features. Most don't seem all that out of place here, luckily.

For those interested in such things, most of the settlements are predominantly Human in population, although there is a sizable Hill Dwarf community in places (their main settlements are at Appleby, Strawberry Fields and Furzeholm), along with features such as a glassworks in the Strawberry Fields area and apple orchards at (naturally!) Appleby, while most places - even some of the small farmsteads - have their own minor breweries and distilleries, as the whisky from places here is highly prized elsewhere.

Out in the wilds, we have stingbats (that phrasing a minor in-joke for any Shadowdark RPG enthusiasts 😊), which are essentially the blood-sucking, small bat-like creatures called "stirges" in D&D, griffons, cave bears and wild boars, aside from the giant eagles, and also a community of Stone Trolls at the top of Stoneman Vale on the great hill of Stony Heights (also called Griffon Hill). Stone Trolls here highly prize certain kinds of stone, and especially jealously guard the magical Jewel Tree in "their" Vale (it fruits genuine gemstones each autumn).

And right in the middle of the map, at the foot of Rosebud hill, we have Rosebud Caverns, the little underground complex, and cause of all this mapping...

LoopysueRoyal ScribeJuanpiDak


  • The basis behind the Inkwell Ideas setting that I wanted to reuse here was as a sort-of druidic experimental station, a series of caves magically enhanced to allow the growing of normal surface food crops underground, protected from conditions outside, and defended by a group of willingly-summoned elementals. This seemed very suitable for this area, with its short summers and long winters, and although not illustrated specifically on the map, the notes for the area indicate there are a lot of other small caves across the Petroc Hills, which might also be used in future, if the experiment here works. It's all being done in secret for now though, in case something goes wrong, hence the defences. I tweaked a few items, added one or two more, and decided, partly based on the general layout, that it had originally been one of the old Hill Dwarf mines of the district. It's often amazing how much just seems to come together from a couple of initial thoughts in this way. I even contemplated having it be set-up just for growing grain crops for a different flavour of whisky at one point, but decided against that eventually. If they can grow the food underground, that'll leave more field space for cereal crops to make whisky outdoors, after all!

    As indicated earlier, I'd be opting for the Jon Roberts Dungeon style from Annual 54 for the mapping of the Caverns, and although I had to make use of a couple of DD3 symbols to round-out what was needed, most of what was required could be found, or repurposed, from that style alone. So to the map:

    The earthy colouring worked to reinforce the whole "druidic growth" concept, and it's a style that works well in showing what's outside and inside, as having greenery, bushes and trees available. To keep the interior clear enough for GM use though, I decided against adding specific plants there, just some fungi (which are one key aspect of the Growing Cavern area), and also went with a quite strong scaling grid, as distances here can be important. I continued the grid over the water, because half of Lowest Cavern is underwater, and characters could well end up stuck there (the underwater areas including the annexe chamber beneath Upper Cavern - the dashed white lines show bits of the lower caves under Upper Cavern). Those circled "T's" in Upper Cavern are indeed rotating Dwarf-made round trapdoors, dropping down to the barred-cell cave off Middle Cavern, and into the plunge-pool off Lowest Cavern. In Growing Cavern, the four labelled statue-like features are the magical items that keep the place functioning, as explained in the map notes, and which again have vaguely elemental aspects to them.

    Probably the biggest mapping challenge was constructing the steps, which did start to feel a little as if they were having to be carved from the native stone by hand for a while! Each has to be on a separate sheet to enable the effects on them to be adjusted to create the illusion of showing which are higher and lower, with the added pain of trying to hide the dark glow at the "back" edge of the top step. They're not perfect, but to my eye at least, they seem perfectly functional to show what they are on the map.

    One further troublesome aspect was the abysmally slow redraw times when using the "Trace" command here, because the caves are all drawn as fractal polygons. For reasons I won't pretend to understand, the command insisted on repeatedly following the entire Caverns outline every time it was used, regardless of which way I'd told it to go, or how small an area I was trying to trace. There wasn't any choice though, as aside from needing different floor textures in places, I had to create masks to Color Key cut-out the unneeded segments of the grid, due to the way caves are drawn in this style. Worked in the end, but quick it ain't!

    A useful feature of the Inkwell Delver dice set is that one of the six dice is designed to show entrances to the subterranean systems. So for the first time in this mapping project, rather than simply devising a suitable way in to the dungeon or caves separately, the first segment of this map - from the exterior through to that first long, straighter, northeast-southwest passageway in Growing Cavern - came directly from the dice design. We'll get the chance to see another of these entrances in action next time.

    As for next time, a new continent beckons, the largest on Nibirum, Doriant, and a location somewhere in the Duin Elisyr region...

    LoopysueRoyal ScribeQuentenMonsenJuanpi
  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    Perfection as always, Wyvern :)

  • Thanks very much Sue - though I'm less sure about the "perfection" personally.

    I suspect Ralf may have a word or two more about drawing and using steps later today on the livestream!

    Royal Scribe
  • 7 days later
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