Bestosa – pencil sketch fantasy map

Bestosa is a map of a fantasy continent pencil sketch

Continent of Bestosa

With this fantasy map, I added tunnels through caves. Fun.

I like the chain of islands, but adding topography into those the small areas seems impossible. I’m drawing on letter-size sheets. Do other people use bigger canvases?

Wavy ocean lines … got a bit carried away there. Also keeping them on the same horizontal plane was a bit challenging.

In regards to topography, I notice that I have a tendency to put the mountains smack dab in the middle. Gonna have to work mixing that up.

Still struggling with buildings and shields and labeling. They’d need to be so tiny!

I’m enjoying creating  these sketches, so I’ll keep at it.

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Mountains and Buildings

Pencil sketches of mountains ranges and hills

Mountains are hard

Continuing in my exploration of cartography and topography, I’m finding that with mountains, it’s hard to not get them too large and take over the whole map. My second map effort end up with huge mountains and awkward buildings.  I didn’t have the book in front of me to follow along with, so it’s not quite as put-together looking as the first effort.

2nd Map effort - Big mountains, weird towns
My second effort at a map didn’t go quite as nicely as the first one.

Also those buildings are just killing me. They need to be tiny to fit proportionately on these 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets, but I haven’t mastered that sort of fine detail with the pencils I’m using. Truth be told, I’ve abandoned this sad effort.

Practice! Practice!

So some practice sketching mountains, trying to follow predetermined paths

Still haven’t quite gotten the hang of mountains in proportion to the rest of the maps, but that’s what practice is for, right?

Pencil sketches of mountains ranges and hills


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What’s left for the Dreadstorm Campaign?

Human female and white haired elf embrace

Are you waiting with bated breath for the next installation of the Dreadstorm Campaign?

Okay. Probably not. My audience is pretty small (read “itty bitty” … you who read my ramblings, I salute you!) and pretty non-communicative. But who am I to toss stones? I’m not big on commenting either.  I hope there will be others who find bits of my imaginary world and story intriguing or inspiring. But truth be told, this is something I’m doing for myself that I want to see through to the end.

That being said, what with playing around with drawing maps and working on my current D&D game, I’m taking some time off from blogging the Dreadstorm Campaign so I can focus in those other directions for a while. When I started with the idea of putting this campaign online, I thought it would be easy. All the material is already there, right?! Nope. Not so much. It’s all that background information in my head that I never bothered writing down. That and finding that on reflection there are bits that needed some tweaking or cleaning up.

Things still to come in the Dreadstorm Campaign:

  1. What’s been happening in Berlstrum while the party is crawling through Berlstrum’s Belly?
  2. Explanation/Summation of the Plague of Orcus Ritual Spell and the escalating zombie types created at dusk each day. There is a time crunch to this adventure!
  3. Encounter with the demon known as The Wix and his Bargles. His job is to ensure that the spell is completed.
  4. Boss fight with Kazel.
  5. Aftermath … lingering undead and uber-undead.

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Map Sketching First Effort

Final version of 1st Map with signature & date 1/26/2018

Taking a short (indeterminent) break from the Dreadstorm Campaign and indulging in hand-drawn map making fun. I’ve really been enjoying learning how to draw the classic style of land maps with tutoring from Mr. Blando’s book, How to Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps. This is the same book I mentioned in my prior post, Castle with “Moat Dragon”.

When I started the map I felt pretty silly and thought it would look pretty dumb, but was pleasantly surprised by the final outcome.

Map Sketch Process

Map Sketch Pic #1 – Establishing the continent shape and islands

Step 1 in drawing a fantasy map - outlining the continent, islands, and lakes
After doodling a rough blob of a shape, I went back and added some interesting coastline bits, islands, and lakes.

Map Sketch Pic #2 – Penciling in some mountains.

Added Mountains. Mountains were surprising difficult. A lot of erasing and redrawing here.

Map Sketch Pic #3 – Mountain details

Added those funny lines to mountains. Huh. They do look more mountain-ee. Might need to do less inner lines next time.

Map Sketch Pic #4 – Let there be hills to hug those mountains

Added hills around my mountains. I might have gotten a little carried away with mountains and hills.

Map Sketch Pic #5 – Adding in some rivers and coastline

Rivers! Rivers are cool. Added rivers and outlined the land masses.

Map Sketch Pic #6 – Forests

Trees! There must be forests, right? With all those hills and mountains, I didn’t leave a lot of room for forests and fields.

Map Sketch Pic #7 – Final-ish version

Final version of 1st Map with signature & date 1/26/2018
Went back and shaded in the trees. Tried to erase the smudge in mountain tops and other pencil smears to make it look like I meant to do that … cause, yeah, totally planned it that way!

I wasn’t brave enough to try adding cities and lettering to this one. I felt this was a good place to stop. For a first effort, I thought it turned out kinda cool.

Things I learned

  1. Mountains are hard
  2. Leave room for more than just mountains
  3. I drag my hand all of the page, making a smeary mess
  4. I need to do a better job of erasing lines
  5. Maybe trees in a forest don’t need to be quite so compressed together
  6. I should probably try to plan the whole map out ahead of time. But who am I kidding. I’m not a planner. I like to do things organically and see where they end up!

Coloring Digitally

I downloaded GIMP, a free & open source image editor, so I can work on coloring maps, and probably the lettering. I’m still figuring out how to deprogram my brain from thinking in Photoshop terms and learn how things work there. My muscle memory is surprisingly strong from all my many past years of using Photoshop. I find my self doing keyboard and mouse shortcuts that don’t really work with GIMP. I can’t tell you how many times I hit CTRL+D to unselect and got a duplicate file instead.

I like the idea of being able to use layers. With pencil sketching, drawing something on top of something else, like trees over a river, that erased bit is gone for good. Not just masked out. Huh. I think working digitally has gotten me a bit lazy and spoiled.

The above images were in no way modified in GIMP or Photoshop.

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