Monday, November 23, 2020

Maps & Cities - Gossamer, Hembeck, Spooky City, GLOG Cities, Bastionlands

I like seeing what sorts of interesting world-building other bloggers get up to. I also like a good map. (For that matter, I'm fairly fond of bad maps!) Recently I've noticed people trying their hands at city-building. A couple have set out to create entire cities in some detail, others have more like introductions or first glances. Some are working alone on a project of their own devising, others are communally riffing on a set of shared ideas.
The Wilting Quarter by Jonathan Newell
Bearded Devil, already the creator of the cities of Hex and Jacksburg, recently started in on a new city mapping project, creating a spooky, gloomy fairy city, named Gossamer. The city of Gossamer is laid out on a streetmap like a stylized spider's web. It's possible that the other three quarters of the city will have different moods, but the Wilting Quarter in the northwest is definitely autumnal and dark, full of bugs and mushrooms. The really nice thing about this series of posts is that Jonathan walks us through his artistic process, and we get to watch the districts accumulate to form the quarter, like watching the highlights from a few episodes of The Secret City

Hembeck by Ruprecht

Grindstone Games very recently put out another complete city, this one called Hembeck. Hembeck reminds me of a Roman city after the fall of the Western Empire. The city is filled with temples, towers, and other order-keeping institutions. One neat touch is the use of well-chosen alphabetized names for the neighborhoods, which makes for clear keying, but doesn't feel gimmicky.

Johannesburg Administrative Subdistrict 7 by Mad Cartographer 
Several GLOG-bloggers responded to a challenge that Oblidisideryptch put out on the OSR Discord, and put together introductions to their own cities. The breadth of information that different writers have put forward in response to the same prompt surprised me. We get neighborhoods, landmarks, encounters, goods for sale.

one possible Spooky City by Evlyn Moreau

Anxiety Wizard developed a more systematic way to build a fantasy city, and wrote up the process along with an example, the Spooky City. The procedure involves writing a number of important "truths" about the city and its inhabitants, that are constants; then writing 12 landmarks, 30 districts, and 100 random encounters. Then the city itself can be procedurally generated by placing a few landmarks and drawing a crossroads coming off of each. These intersecting lines form the boundaries of the districts. 

So you have sort of an eternal truth of the city, as well as particular instances of the city that different play groups might find. Anxiety Wizard wrote the lists for Spooky City with help from several collaborators, including Evlyn Moreau of Le Chaudron Chromatic. Evlyn in turn rolled up her own procedurally generated Spooky City, and then wrote up a couple others cities following the same instructions. My favorite is the Slumber City, and especially the detail that paprika spice is a dream drug imported from Slumberland.

Buttermilk Borough by Simon Forster
Addermouth District by Joshua LH Burnett

Misty Tracts by Kyle Maxwell

Inspired by this year's release of Electric Bastionland, and following the advice Chris McDowell laid out for creating new neighborhoods, several people have made their own little sections of Bastion. Bone Box Chant proposes an alternative, watery, dieselpunk city called Phosphene, but the others stick to neighborhoods, filled with a whole variety of interesting sites and complications.
one possible Vornoi City Diagram generated by KTrey Parker

As a kind of bonus, Mazirian's Garden has a procedure for generating explorable cities. This involves creating neighborhoods, then filling them with both obvious landmarks and hidden points of interest. He also wrote some rules for exploring such a city, including both getting lost and gradually learning your way around.

d4 Caltrops also has some advice for drawing interesting city maps. His idea involves a mathematical concept called Vornoi tiles, but fortunately, he also has links to some free online tools you can use to make your own map fairly easily. 


  1. Re. Electric Bastionland - there are also methods in place for mapping the Deep Country, the Deep Water and the Underground. Of course, Bastion itself is the most characterful element of EB, so this isn't so surprising.
    At any rate, I put together worked examples for each - but they're a bit bare-bones compared with the above.

  2. This is thrilling. Retro-game writing about cities got me into the blog scene bag before G+. To see it flowering again really makes me think that retro-gaming is as strong as it ever was, even though we don't have a single platform to talk to each other. In addition to the stuff you cite, we also have adjacent things like Visitor's Guide to the Rainy City, which are really good. It's a wealth of material.

    1. I think you're right that the retrogaming scene is pretty strong. There've been quite a few new blogs starting and a handful of lapsed bloggers coming back. We've got a new platform for selling pdfs via itch, Exalted Funeral as a storefront for nicely printed books, and this unbelievable flowering of zines coming out of Kickstarter.

      To me, this time seems defined by proliferation and diversity. A lot of new people are coming in interested in GLOG in a way that they might have been interested in a B/X retroclone before. The rules-light crowd is organizing as FKR. More people are dabbling in wargames (or at least more are posting about it). And I think 5e continues to act as a conveyer belt carrying people into the hobby, and then sending some of them searching for something simpler or more their taste, the same way 3e and Pathfinder lead me to Labyrinth Lord and all that.

  3. Speaking of both cities and my last post, Was It Likely? has a new minigame based on Invisible Cities called The Emperor & The Explorer.