Making Sylnae, Part I: The Idea

Having explored the world wide web and finding some parts of Sylnae around the web, but not all of it, I admit I was a little sad to see it gone. I thought about it today, I hate to say it but something that you have created and that been around for almost two decades, just doesn’t go away like that. Take into account also that I have finally started an ongoing campaign after discovering Swords & Wizardry and gotten a few friends to go on this silly little journey with me. Initially I just threw something together, stealing some images here and there and running with it…but that is just not me, and I felt compelled to create!

So what to do? Well,

Create an entirely new Sylnae! Duh! 😉

Now, I figure most of you have no idea what I am talking about, and most of you have never thought of creating a world all of your own have you? I have been doing it for almost 30 years….damn Gary Gygax and his D&D. It put this creative seed in me and now I am a full fledged addict.

I already mapped out the city my players will be haunting for a few sessions, a friendly little town named Falcon’s Hollow. This will suffice for the world for now and allow us to continue gaming while I begin to flesh out the rest of the world. So I figured I better get started! Then I thought, heck maybe this blog is a good way to map out the madness that comes with creating an entire world, well to the level I intend to do it, which is not too detailed. I plan on a world map, a few city maps, the gods, the different peoples of the world, and maybe a little beyond that. So enough to game in, but not enough to run off and start trying to locate a travel guide and plan your next summer vacation.

So, today in between working I came up with a style that I like (and if you remember the old Forgotten Reams style world map, you will recognize this) and one that fits well with the retro-game of Swords & Wizardry: Whitebox that I plan on using for the game. So harkening back to the (read: my) glory days of gaming, I thought that particular style, while not blow you away and knock your socks off like some of the maps people are doing these days, would remind those in the know of their good old days of gaming. So I stuck with it, don’t like it? Go play D&D 4e. 😛

Below is the sort of process I went through and what I came up with.

Part 1: The Hills and discovering a process

I started with the hills on the map, just to see if I could pull off this style. It has a very distinct look and I want to try to mimic it as much as possible…sort of as a honoring of the old game. Nerdy? Yeah, but oh well. The other retro guys will get it.  In the course of working on it (and remembering previous map working) I decided to essentially create a set of mini-tutorials for myself with all the steps, colors and non-flattened-samples of the pieces that will go on the map eventually. This is extrememly important. I do not know how many times I have made something, then later wanted to go back and repeat it….and found I could not remember the process I used to create it (here all this time you just thought I liked to change styles! HA!)

So I started work on the hills. Nothing too impressive, but I realized how simple this mapping style was, and was encouraged that I could do this fairly easy, especially with the template I came up to track and record the steps in making the parts of the map.

map style

FRexample-hillsCompared to the original (to the left) , I thought these turned out very well (you can see part of the original map here). Encouraged by this, I decided to continue in my plans. Looking at the old map again, I wodnered what feature I should do next and I spotted the compass! I even liked it so much, I remade it nearly identical to how it looks on that map and came up with some symbols for use on the map too.

The symbolsOh, I should also mention that this mapping is all done at 150dpi, so it should be good for printing and the like when it is done. I really liked how I was able to recreate all the original symbols, I did change the temple, but now looking at it, I will probably switch it back to the plain old triangle they originally used. I mean, if we are going retro, we should go all the way, right?

Next up was the actual land, this made me very nervous, as the land has a unique style that I was not sure I would be able to recreate short of literally painting the entire map (e.g. using not digital shortcuts, and hence taking forever to do). However, after experimenting with it a little, I was able to come up with a very close mirror of the original style in a realatively quick manner that I think I can work over a massive amount of space. I will still have to paint some of the small shapes you can just make out on there, but hey, a little sweat and this baby will rock.The land


To the right is a small sample off the original map, you can see it is not exact, but decently close…and more importantly I can reproduce this at a fairly quick pace. I don’t want to spend a week drawing just the land on the map. So, I think this will work for me.

I am going to stop here for this incarnation of “Let’s build Sylnae!” While these pieces do not look like much when they are separate like this, but when thrown together, they come together and mimic the old style very well. Hopefully I will be able to work on this slowly while still here in Iraq. I am thinking I will make the map HUGE to allow for lots of exploration and such in the realm.

Next time: Mountains and Forests!


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