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.