The latest map and an updated overview of Kaendor

My old computer has been reaching the end of its life and the backup I am using now just doesn’t have the power to handle the large file sizes I usually like to work with, so for the time being I am limiting myself to basic layout sketches without trying to make them look pretty as handouts for players. I also decided to limit the scope of this map to just the part of the continent that I actually need for planning my next campaign.

30 miles per hex, 900 miles by 1800 miles.

This area actually covers a good 90% of all the content that I have already created for the setting. There’s still the far northern lands of Venlat where the white skinned and white haired Kuri live under the rule of Maiv the Witch Queen, but I am quite happy with that being a far off distant land that has no direct contact with the main civilized region shown on this map.

Senkand

On the east side of the map is a huge valley between two mountain ranges with a total size roughly on the same scale of France or Spain. I think that’s as big as I can go with the main city states (maked in red) still having meaningful regular interactions with each other. The eastern mountains and highlands are the lands of the Yao mountain people, while the great plain in the center of the valley is the lands of the Murya sorcerer kings. The woodlands north of Senkand are the home of the Fenhail tribes.

This incarnation of Senkand takes a lot of inspirations from Dark Sun, but instead of a barren desert its environment is more like Northern Spain and southern France, with the mountains being comparable to the Pyreneese and the Alps. In earlier versions of the setting it used to be more like the coasts of Greece and Southern Italy, but in the process of downscaling the city states considerably to make a more wilderness focused setting, I decided to drop the Mediterranean port city model (which is more a think of Antiquity) with the river valley structure that dominated in the Bronze Age.

I don’t have any specific plans for campaigns set in the east and I mostly want it to be background material for NPCs and factions. Though I think it would be a perfectly playable region that still works in the overall style I am pursuing with Kaendor.

Dainiva

The center of the map consists of a large region of temperate-warm woodlands that are bordered in the east by the mountains that separate it from the city states of Senkand, and in the west by a great river that marks the edge of the known world for most people. This area is what Kaendor was always meant to be about and that is most reflective of the kind of environment implied by the Dungeons & Dragons Basic and Expert rules. A vast wilderness full of ruins, monsters, and treasures, and only a few scattered villages and forts.

Dainiva, as well as the forests beyond the great river, were once the realm of the asura who ruled there for thousands of years. Their presence alone was what had kept the various early societies of Senkand from attempting to cross the mountains. But now the asura are almost entirely gone, and the lands of Dainiva have been abandoned for many centuries. The first people to cross the mountains where Murya shamans and witches seeking the occult secrets of the great asura kings. They brought back great amounts of esoteric knowledge about other realms and demons that became the basis of sorcery, but many of them stayed in the lands beyond the mountains to delve deeper into what the asura had discovered before them. Whatever they found, something covered the peaks of the mountains in clouds of poisonous ash and made the few passes crawl with ghouls and other undead horrors. For many generations crossing the mountains was all out impossible, but over time clouds of ash become more rare and the undead only rarely seen. Slowly Murya from Senkand resumed making the crossing into the lands beyond the mountains, while further north some Fenhail and the occasional Yao made the journey through the forest. Most of the people who came to Dainiva and settled down had fled from Senkand for one reason or another, which greately affected the kind of society that developed in the west.

The woods of Dainiva are home to scattered villages of rarely more than a few hundred people, often surrounded by wooden palisades or build on top of defensible hills and cliffs. Hunting is just as much a part of daily life as farming and great amounts of tools and weapons found by local traders have been imported from the East. The woods are also filled with ancient asura ruins, as well as the lairs and tombs of the first sorcerers.

Beyond the Great River

While the woodlands of Dainiva are a barely explored frontier, the lands on the western bank of the great river are a completely unknown wilderness. Rumors are that those distant forests are still ruled by asura kings, the mountains swarming with dragons, and that ancient gods are walking among the trees. But in truth almost nobdy ever returned to the taverns and trade posts of Dainiva with any proof that they actually had made it to the other side.

The Yellow Crystals Fields

There is something about areas that have been corrupted the demonic powers of sorcery that occadionally leads to the growth of formations of pale yellow crystals that can grow to enormous size. The crystals are extremely hard and almost impossible to remove once they have started to appear.

Instead of feeding on the sorcerous power lingering at the sites of demonic rituals, the destruction of powerful demons, or the lairs of ancient sorcerers, the growth of the crystals appears to actually increase the corruption of the surrounding area. While the initial spread of the crystals can happen quite rapidly over the span of just months, the growth seems to slow down and stop eventually. If this were not the case, some sages think the crystals could eventually take over the entire world, and would likely have done so long ago.

But even if they don’t pose a serious threat to the world as a whole, the areas covered by the hard yellow formations are left as otherwise barren wastelands. In many places corrupted by sorcery, the demonic influence seems to slowly ebb away over the course of man centuries and eventually become barely detectable. But as far as everyone’s been able to tell so far, the crystaline formations are eternal.

The crystals have some limited uses in a number of sorcerous rituals, but their incredible hardness makes it very difficult to remove large chunks of it. The corruption around them also makes them dangerous to carry, so there is little trade with these crystals among alchemists.

The Golems of Dainiva

Throughout the vast reaches of the Dainiva Forest rest the ancient and overgrown remains of massive stone giants. Sometimes found slumped against a hillside, sitting slouched among the trees, or lying face down in a river, these silent golems offer scarce insights into how they got to their final resting places.

Even though often heavily weathered, missing large pieces, and covered in moss and lichens, each of these golems seems to have had a unique appearance, with no two known examples being the same in size, proportions, or the stone they are made from. Some appear merely mishapen hunks of rock whose blunt arms and legs only distantly resemble a person, while others show great amount of carving and chisseling to give them simple but distinguishing faces and hands and the proportions of a roughly hewn statue.

The origins of the golems is a mystery lost to time. The clans of Dainiva and the surrounding lands have no stories of their creation, or even about them being encountered alive. As far as everyone knowns, they have always been sitting motionless under the canopy of the forest. With no way to tell their original purpose, they now only serve as landmarks for the occasional hunters making their way through the forest.

From the Collective Cultural Subconscious

I was once again browsing through old posts on Planet Algol to help me get into the right mindset for overhauling Planet Kaendor as a more wild, more weird, and more quirky world than it’s been before. And there I stumbled upon this:

Also known as pack lizards, Nguamodons are a horse-sized species of iguanodon. Herbivores that can survive for two weeks without food or water, they are commonly used as pack animals although any burden limits them to a quadrupedal gait that reduces their speed and renders them unable to use their thumb spikes in combat. They are placid, stupid and easily spooked.

I know that thing! That’s a droha! Seen in the wild over six years before I thought about the idea. I based the droha on a hadrosaurus instead of an iguanodon, but otherwise it’s really the same thing. I even set it at the same 3 HD as the nguamodon.

So someone had the same identical idea, years before me. So what. It actually only proves that there is at least one person out there who agrees with me that this is the cool shit for making great alien fantasy settings.

Mapbashing

Every model builder should know what kitbashing is. Why isn’t mapbashing an established technical term among map makers?

While I was working on a new map layout for Kaendor that better reflects some design changes I’ve decided on, I was comparing notes with other mappers and noticed that on my scale reference Europe map, that the Adriatic Sea had almost the exact dimensions as the narrow sea in the middle of my sketch, and Italy was a close match to the mountain range I want to put to the West of it, if you just rotate it a little bit. On a map of Europe, there’s something very close to any geographic shape I had in mind, and so I just kept cutting out more pieces from my reference map and cutting and rotating them until it looked like this. I didn’t even use scaling and mirroring, with is additional options you can use for something like this.

And two hours later, I had something looking like this. I really like this.

Like with my hugely popular technique to make hex maps, I’ve been using GIMP for this. Though I am certain PhotoShop has all the features for doing this as well.

There’s no better way to get more realistic looking shorelines, river systems, and islands than tracing actual shorelines, river systems, and islands. And by using topographical maps like I did with this map, you also get some information about what kinds of mountain formations further inland contributed to creating these shapes.