Wednesday 21 February 2024

Bosnia, Slavonia & Croatia, around Daruvar


As I map progressively into the heart of Europe, the size of the regions progressively get smaller ... especially as we near the Holy Roman Empire.  While Slavonia and Bosnia are part of the Ottoman Empire, Croatia is part of the slim kingdom of Hungary, which in the 17th century acts as a bulwark (note the thicker border).  The Ottomans will cross this frontier once more in 1683, but in 1650 their attentions are elsewhere.  Croatia stands because Christian Slavonia is far less controlled than Islamic Bosnia; nonetheless, the area on both sides of the border is fairly peaceful.

The 1683 advance did pass through parts of Slavonia, and Agram to the west, but as the movement was on such a broad front there's no specific marching route we can name.

For the record, the river at the top is the Drava, while the Sava is on the bottom.

Monday 19 February 2024

Bosnia-Kilis, from Bihac to Petrovac

Still wading through these backcountry parts of Bosnia, and still we're not done with the country.  Bihac isn't even connected to the rest of the country by road; there's a little cart path (not even ruts) that leads down to the Kozjak river (a dry wash on GoogleEarth, due to the dam northwest of Bihac).  The river wouldn't be navigable, but there would be a footpath along it, to provide the only communication to this part of the Ottoman-controlled region.  But then, Lika, Kilis and Slavonia are all also under Ottoman suzerainty.

The sanjak of Kilis comprises an ancient region that dates back to the Stone Age, called Burnum under the Romans and Knin after the 10th century, when it formed a defensive refuge for the kings of Croatia for 500 years.  There's a long description of the region under wikipedia.  I was calling it Tinin, the Hungarian name for the region, but a recent look into it tells me that the Ottomans called it Kilis.  It also says that at some point the name was changed to Kirka, even Krka, but I don't have a date for that change and I suspect someone's confused the region with the island of Krk in the Asiatic, about 20 miles off the map to the west.  Anyway, I've accepted Kilis for it.

Lika is also a former province of Croatia, falling to the Ottomans after the 1493 Battle of Krbava Field.  Wikipedia rates it as a part of Kilis, Krka or Bosnia, but I've chosen to retain it's 7th century roots.  Both Kilis and Like are extraordinarily unpopulated, so when I come to map either of those, they'll be as empty as the hexes around Bihac, with a dense coastal Dalmatia next door.  Won't be for a while, though.  I'm going to skirt one corner of Lika as I map in a northwesterly direction, but this is all I'll do of Kilis until coming all the way around my complete map.

Monday 12 February 2024

Bosnia, Zenucha to Banjaluka


Sarajevo isn't the "heart" of Bosnia.  This is.  While not truly dense, as say northern Serbia, this is yet quite populated.

This is still within the Ottoman Empire.  The reach of that empire is only graspable when one comes close to the ground, when every part of Europe that was under its sway is individually seen and examined.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Bosnia, around Sarajevo


Difficult to do these areas that straddle two different map sheets.  The bottom is part of the Adriatic sheet, while the top overlies the Hungary sheet.  Since I create an overlap, it means copying the content from one as exactly as possible onto the other.

Not much else to say.  The mountain fatigue of rolling east-to-west through Bulgaria and Serbia isn't going to stop.  I know it'll continue on up the old Yugoslavian lands through Croatia ... and while theres a brief respite coming as I cross the extreme west of Hungary and then Nyatria, I suspect I'll pick up mountains again as I pass through the bottom edge of Poland.  Somewhere out there is the big flat land of the Ukraine.  Oh, let the day come.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Bosnia-Serbia, Visegrad, Uzice


Normally, I create the posted map from six 20-mile hexes, but this is from eight — filling a gap created by my going all the way around my mapped area in a great circle, passing through Hungary, Ukraine, the Black Sea, the edge of Anatolia and finally Hungary and Serbia.  The above brings me back full circle and completes Serbia completely.

The above was especially difficult as it spans over three separate map sheets.  I did a better job matching these together, so the reader would have to look hard to find a seam.

The river is the Drina, which flows north into the Sava and eventually the Danube.  It isn't an accurate representation.  Doing the map incrementally, and the rivers themselves being extremely difficult to follow and read with GoogleEarth, as everything is a canyon.  Somewhere I lost the correct line of one of these rivers and to make it work, I had to "invent" a river connection.  Not going to say where.  It looks pretty good, and it is a fantasy map.

Part of the blame lies in that I began creating the underlying maps in 2004, before the invention of a lot of map-friendly content on the internet.  As such, I decided not to focus on exact geographical rendering ... which is, unfortunately for me, now possible.  Sometimes I regret not starting over at some earlier time — but hell, I was mapping India by 2011, which meant that most of the area I have mapped in 20-mile hexes was done in the first seven years of my effort.  It felt too late to adjust even then.  So as someone committed, I have to stress things like it being a "fantasy" and not being an "exact" depiction.

It's funny because unless we're from the actual place being depicted, chances are we just don't care.  Here's a video for reference there.

'Course, I know every error I've made, because I really care about details and the real world.  And the errors haunt me.  I've made my bed and it's too short for my feet.  The only thing I can do is hang them over and get the soundest sleep I can.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Hercegovina-Montenegro, north of Niksic


The karst shown here is a mixture of bare limestone and dolomite rock and scrub growth.  The region is full of sinkholes formed by the collapse of underground caverns.  There are extensive limestone pavements, cracks and deep, narrow fissures called "grikes."  An abundance of springs exist that form streams, many of which disappear through fissures and travel thence through underground channels.  There are many, many caves.

This is the southern reach of the Dinaric Alps, which spawns isolated limestone formations with precipitous cliffs, groups of peaks and plateau-like areas 7000 ft. above sea level.  These contribute to the overall grandeur and scale of the landscape.  The surrounding forests contained scattered hamlets and tiny villages, with only a few significant settlements grouped around.  It's a spectacular arrangement for low-level adventuring, with plenty of space for the occasional chimera or gorgon ... remembering that the southern portion shown was part of Illyria, on the fringe of the ancient Greek world.  So such beasts would be entirely appropriate.

This puts Montenegro behind me, and this is all I'm doing of Hercegovina for now.  Continuing north, there's Serbia to complete and then the eastern part of Bosnia.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

Montenegro-Serbia, around Taslidza

This is west of the previous picture, completing the last corner of Kosovo.  The terrain of northern Montenegro is unusually irregular and can't be easily drawn on a map.  As such, the symbols I'm using aren't really accurate.  I suggest that anyone interested in real geography use their GoogleEarth to investigate the landforms here ... they're very interesting.

For adventure purposes, I love an area like this.  Surrounded by densely populated locales, with the centre a dense wilderland with the bare minimum of cart paths and trails to allow access.  Sections that are 20 miles across without anyone except whatever beasts or goblinish villages I care to include.  And a dungeon or two, obviously.  A party could run for ten years in an area like this, returning again and again to the small country towns of Dabovici, Jubaka and Janca for moderate resupply, except when they have to head out to really civilised places for unusual gear.

Still going one more section west after this, touching the east frontier of Hercegovina.

Sunday 28 January 2024

Serbia-Kosovo, around Novibazar

Some wild country in northwest Kosovo and eastern Serbia, with two tiny settlements and little infrastructure.  These areas are somewhat easier to design, though the proliferation of mountains takes time.  I look forward to the big open plains of the Ukraine, with nary a hill ... though when I return to that, I'll be missing mountains.

All of these territories for the last couple of months, with the exception of "Cattaro" on the last post, which is under control of the Venetians, are part of the Ottoman Empire.  Despite the geographical obstacles before them, the Ottomans did very well in capturing and maintaining these regions for five centuries.  This left an indelible mark on the land, both in culture and in the manner of financial expenditures and religion.  In the game world, these lands are fraught with repression, religious persecution, blood feuds and political corruption.

The hillpeople, who hated the lowlanders, adopted Islam and become Moslems; the lowlanders remained steadfastly Christian ... though because they were isolated from both Catholicism and the Russian Orthodox entities, they formed local orthodox or catholic chapters that remain independent to this day.

As a pattern for designing game adventures, I find this difficult for my players.  Most aren't invested in either religion or nationalism; it can be hard even for adults to engage in struggles based upon this region's abject hatred for that, on a degree that often seems absurd.  Western soldiers in Kosovo in the 1990s had trouble relating to people's motivations that were based on wild, unrestrained hatred and a desire for genocide — both of which are legacies from such a long time under Turkish rule, where the locals had little control over their futures or social change.  The absence of political control fosters petty discontents.  The 17th century Balkans are rife with it.  Player parties are not, and it's therefore with blank eyes that they respond should I introduce some narrative based on this village attacking that without apparent cause.  So I largely don't.  Too much of it and all the parties want to do is leave and so somewhere more sensible, like France or Scandinavia.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Albania-Montenegro, around Skadar


There, the Adriatic Sea at last.  I've followed this east to west path since Amisos in Bithynia, in Turkey.  At this point I'm finally ready to swing north.

I know they're just dots on the map above, but these are real places and I find them somewhat interesting.  Take Virpazar, for example, on the left-center, just off Lake Skadar.  A quainter little village couldn't be asked for, just 1.56 km from the lake's algae-ridden shore ... so, in fact, a little port village, though that's not plain on the map above.  The layout is plainly made for a D&D adventure, with it's circular group of houses and the all-important bridge.

There's next to no information on wikipedia, but a tourist link (written in Bosnian) translates as follows by chatGPT:

"Virpazar is a small town on Lake Skadar, with many attractions and tourist activities, and an excellent starting point for numerous hiking tours.  One of the main offerings for tourists is boat trips on Lake Skadar.  In recent years, more and more tourists have been enjoying bird watching. If you didn't know, Lake Skadar is the largest bird habitat in this part of Europe. Lake Skadar is a "bird paradise" with 280 species, including rare ones such as pelicans and cormorants. It's interesting that the seagull, as a marine bird, nests on a freshwater island in Lake Skadar. The rare pelican has become the emblem of the lake.  Don't miss the opportunity to savour dishes and excellent Montenegrin wines that will surely be offered in local restaurants."

There are numerous images of Virpazar attached to GoogleEarth as well.  I like this one:

I want to stress that I've deliberately chosen real places to put on these maps, any one of which can be searched for through Google, Wikipedia or other sites.  If you do choose to run characters somewhere on the maps provided here, be sure and look them up to see what facts there are that might interest your imagination.

Friday 19 January 2024

Kosovo-Albania, south of the Albanian Alps


These feel like they're coming fast; I'm not pressing that hard, but I am enjoying the process.  I could stand a few less mountains.  The Adriatic Sea is now just 10 west of the bottom corner of this add, so the next post will feature a sea coast.

I'm experimenting with a new colour scheme for these snow covered mountains; the colour isn't clear on Blogger, but when I post a pdf of the region on my patreon, it should show the change.  The Sharr and the Albanian Alps are the first I've mapped in 6-mile hexes that are both high enough, and have enough snowfall, to produce an ice-cap.  There's going to be a lot of it if I get to the Austrian-Swiss Alps; pretty sure I'm going to skip past that as I round the corner towards northern Hungary, Bohemia and southern Poland.  Looking forward to mapping the big Lake Balaton in Hungary.

For the time being, it's a march up the length of old Yugoslavia, mapping Bosnia, part of Croatia and Slavonia. 

Though at first glance, each of these maps might seem much the same as the one before, but there are differences I can feel as I choose the placement of mountains, rivers and so on.  The whole reach from central Bulgaria out to Albania has been one hard task of wild, inconsistent country split by multiple, non-homogeous mountain ranges.  It's no wonder that ancient Greece felt trapped against the sea, as these sheer wildness lands took civilisation many centuries to unravel and overcome.

Thursday 18 January 2024

Kosovo-Albania, around Prizren

Made a mistake with my last post, misunderstanding the location of the Sharr Mts.  Where I put the Sharr are the "Black Mts."  The Sharr on are this corner of Albania, the first bit of that land that I've mapped.  That should give a hint of how close I'm getting to the Adriatic.

Added labels, so Serbia, Albania and Kosovo are clear now; Macedonia is cut off to the east.  I won't get back around to southern Macedonia for a long time.  Kosovo is about two thirds done now, with the above showing the heart of that country.  I'm enjoying the process of mapmaking again; it's been too long.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Macedonia-Serbia-Kosovo, Uskub to Pristina

Mountains and wilderness borderland lacking a label for Kosovo (on the left) and Serbia (top right).  The Uskub region at the bottom is part of those settled lands that gave rise to Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great some 2300 years ago.

I have to weigh in on the region labels and mountain names, to make them clearer than they've been up to now.  It's a troublesome detail, as there's never room enough to comfortably squeeze in a big title overtop the considerable background.  I tend to kick it down the road because I know where I am, but obviously I need to attend to the matter going forward, so I will.

From here I'm going to continue going west until I reach the Adriatic Sea, which is about 110-120 miles onward.  It's felt good coming back to making maps, and going forward I'll continue posting them in 40 by 60 mile sections, as each is done.  On to the Adriatic, and then swing northwest towards Vienna.

Monday 15 January 2024

Macedonia-Serbia, Vranya to Kocane


Shows the southern border of Serbia where it meets Macedonia ... in a region replete with mountains and forest.  The route shown throught Kocane to Velbazhd (and Sofia further north, off map), is an ancient trade route between Salonika and central Bulgaria.  Historically, the beige region at the upper right is the ancenstral home of the Bulgarian kingdoms that arose in the 6th century AD, as it was a transportation hub between the Aegean Sea, the Danube valley and roads to the Adriatic ... called Illyria at the time.

The forests look like they'd be easier to render, but the hills and mountains, getting them more or less in the right place, drains away time.  Plus, the area above spans over two map sheets, so that after creating some of the map on the right, I then had to copy and duplicate it on the left so the two sheets would match seamlessly.  The above is made of two files; a little examination reveals labels that start and don't finish, or places where the roads and rivers don't perfectly match up.

We do what we can.

Monday 20 February 2023

Hither Rumelia, around Velbazhd

Seems somethings always in the way.

I know, I haven't been working on these maps.  The priority is the book, it's that simple.  But I'll go on making maps as I'm inclined.  The above is working along the western edge of Bulgaria, though the civilisation here is hemmed in by tall mountains to the south, cutting it off from Greece except along the narrow, wild course of the Isker river, shown flowing off the bottom edge of the map.

Thursday 16 February 2023

Added North and East of Munich

Looks so much better when it's fleshed out:

Wasserburg is a county attached to the Bishopric of Trier, way the other side of Germany ... so, managed by religious entities.  This is part of the reason why it's infrastructure is lacking, as reclusiveness is the order.  The land further on is a part of Upper Bavaria, controlled by Munich, but is isolated by the geography and distance from the central province.  Once again, it produces that effect where a heavy infrastructure evaporates like night and day.

I failed to mention last week that I've been working on these maps for just one year.  The first day I started was Feb 9.  I'd say it's been successful.

On to other things.  

Friday 10 February 2023

Hither Rumelia, around Pernik

Reached the western border of modern Bulgaria at last:

Remember when we were just trying to go east through Ukraine?  That's a long way north of here.

The Sofia cluster extends outwards to the south, but it stops dead at Macedonia (which is why the border is there).  The isolation of that group of mountains adjacent to Sofia is more obvious now, with the plain encircling it.

Not much to say ... I've got to get back to the Streetvendor's Guide, while getting ready for running D&D tonight.  Sorry if I'm not going too much in depth into these parts.  The Balkans are not a fascination for me, just a series of isolated social cultures that were kept at each other's throats by the Ottomans for 600 years.  Converts to Islam tended to be mountain people, who had a distaste for the plains-people already ... and those hatreds between highlands and plains continue to this day.  Moreover, the Ottomans kept the various Christian churches of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and such isolated (and played off against each other), so that even today there's no solidarity between either the various Orthodox or Catholic churches.  It makes for hatred, violence, constant squabbling and institutional backwardness.  And it's been going on a long time.

Thursday 9 February 2023

Hither Rumelia, around Razlik

More of the Rhodope Mountains:

It's been 3 months since I started this blog, in central Hungary.  Since, I've moved around in a circle through Slovakia, Ruthenia, the Ukraine, the Black Sea and Bulgaria.  I'd hoped to complete a circuit by this time, but there have been distractions.  I have to post a complete map, though the scale challenges the eye ... but not just at this time.

There's still some Hither Rumelia to do, but it's much smaller than the further province; we'll be in Macedonia on the weekend.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Hither Rumelia, southeast of Sofia

Real mountains, now:

The above features the central massif of the Rhodope Mountains, shown with the double-peaked mountain icons on the bottom left.  These are 8500 ft. above sea level or more, which is staggering as the plain eastward is just 840 ft.  As such, although they may not be as high as the Alps, they look as though they are from the plain.  But what's truly amazing, from someone who can see the Rocky Mountain chain from where I am, is that the whole massif is just 33 miles long.  That's less than the distance between Cincinnati and Dayton, or Salem Massachusetts and Worcester.  The whole range would tuck neatly into the San Francisco Bay Area.