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Map of the Valley of Heart's Delight (WIP) by Catspaw-DTP-Services Map of the Valley of Heart's Delight (WIP) by Catspaw-DTP-Services

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One form of art with which I always have been fascinated—and which always has intimidated the hell out of me as an artist—is cartography, particularly the invention of fictitious lands (or seas). It doesn’t help that most made-up maps look terribly fake to my eye, with stilted geography, implausible geology, and willy-nilly scatterings of roads and cities. I love maps, but I hate trying to draw them, for pretty much the same reasons in both cases.

On the other hand, I really can’t get away any longer with no more than verbal description of the Valley of Heart’s Delight, where the pilot pony role-playing game is set. So here is a PDF map, enabled for commenting and annotation, to which I’ll add elements and relationships as they evolve, with the eventual goal of generating a finished version.

The current version includes a first cut at heightmap-based mountains, which is very rough; I haven’t started serious editing of the terrain. Rather than the Santa Cruz and Diablo ranges, I’ve borrowed sections of the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges south of Monterey Bay.
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:icondraconis341:
Draconis341 Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014
Not bad - although, I'm afraid I have to ask if Scrooge McBit lives in Bitburg.
You'll probably want to make that a three or four syllable name to avoid the association. Or change the 'burg' suffix.
Also, I'm assuming the solid circles are minor Pony settlements? If so, the fact that they're spaced out fairly regularly on a pretty clear curve would bely the idea of natural settlement.
Of course, it looks like they're actually post-industrial settlements that sprang up around the refueling stations along a railroad. If that's the case, though, there should be a reason the railroad takes the path it does - otherwise it would have taken the more direct route from Bitsburg to Ponyford, and the bay area townships. Perhaps a mine in the southern mountain region?
And however you got that mountain texture - well done. It's a bit 'satellite map', but I'll just assume the cartography office has a HALO capable pegasus with a nifty camera. Besides - it looks _good_.
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:iconcatspaw-dtp-services:
Catspaw-DTP-Services Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Professional Artist
I’m guessing you’re unfamiliar with the real Bitburg.

Yes, the dots are tentative locations for riverside towns, placed where the Honey meanders near the edge of the floodplain and there are decent riverport sites. Their apparent regularity is due to several factors:
  • Current placement is approximate and may shift
  • No other valley settlements have been placed yet, making these stand out unduly
  • No variation in settlement size is shown yet, which emphasizes similarity rather than difference
    • Relative settlement age is not indicated, which also emphasizes similarity over difference
    • No large settlements have been built on the fertile and hazardous floodplain, so towns and villages tend to cluster along the plain’s edges instead
    • Many elements of the valley are still in flux
      The most important reason, though, is that they are transportation hubs—just not railroad hubs. Instead, they began as riverine hubs, and a robust transportation network always has been a hallmark of the valley. It’s a major reason why the valley is an important agricultural center and exporter. Moving produce to market is fast and efficient, and in a preindustrial world that’s very important. Heck, it’s still important today!

      The railroad is not shown yet; you may be mistaking the edges of the floodplain for rail lines, a shortcoming of the current state of the work in progress. When added, the railroad will follow, more or less, the northern edge of the floodplain, but that’s because the valley’s transportation network—including some limited pre-locomotive light rail—was well-established when the newfangled iron horse appeared (decades? a century? ago). As a result, the rail right-of-way simply goes where there already was demand. It comes down the coast from the north, through Gallopston, Ponyford, and Bitburg, then continues up into the mountains, following the Honey River canyon until it reaches a pass where the juncture of the two ranges is relatively low and gentle.

      It’s likely at least one more town will pop up on the floodplain’s north edge, and that will be due to the railroad, to break up the long gap between Bitburg and Ponyford.

      Yeah, the mountains definitely are very satellite-mappish, but I’m not about to pursue nineteenth-century versimilitude to the extent of doing that much hand-shading. You might be surprised, though, just how sophisticated Victorian-era maps could get; I have a coffee-table book, The Mapmaker’s Art, which inspired several aspects of the valley map.
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:iconcatspaw-dtp-services:
Catspaw-DTP-Services Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Professional Artist
Curse Deviantart’s uneven handling of HTML!
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:iconearlmcclaw:
EarlMcClaw Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014
Oh wow. Accurate or not, that makes for quite a difference. Beautiful!
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:iconcatspaw-dtp-services:
Catspaw-DTP-Services Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Professional Artist
Thanks! There’s still a lot to do, but at least I’ve found a way to handle the mountains. The southern range isn’t perfect, but I consider it acceptable—I particularly like the strong ridgeline and sharp northern slope. I still am not completely happy with the northern range, though, and may swap it out for another. The valley floor also remains to be worked out.
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:iconearlmcclaw:
EarlMcClaw Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2014
Orientation: Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Keeping this orientation may allow for a slightly larger image on the same paper size.

Adjusting to put the compass rose square with the page edges is standard.
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:iconcatspaw-dtp-services:
Catspaw-DTP-Services Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2014  Professional Artist
I think I’ve settled on retaining the current orientation, partly to reduce the already considerable amount of work involved.
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:iconadran06:
Adran06 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014
The text along the flood plain is really hard to read.
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:iconcatspaw-dtp-services:
Catspaw-DTP-Services Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Professional Artist
It’s still a work in progress—a lot of the current text is just notes for future revision of the map. The smallest text is 24 points; it only looks small if you’ve zoomed out to see the whole thing, which is huge (48 by 33 inches). If you zoom in, the text should be easier to read.
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:iconadran06:
Adran06 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014
It's not the text size, it's the color. I see dark color text on dark color background and just see dark colored blurs instead of text.
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:iconearlmcclaw:
EarlMcClaw Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014
It's the contrast; switching to another color should be easy enough.
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:icontorturedartist745:
TorturedArtist745 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2014
It's certainly not a bad map. It gives the player a decent layout of land and most of the symbols are self-explainitory. Overall, it looks okay so far.

As for the compass at the bottom, I think it's okay the way it is. Based on what I've seen, the cardinal directions in game normally doesn't matter that much. When the players want to head in a particular direction, then it's usually best to assume that the characters know where they're going unless they are some hinderances like they don't have a map, lose their compass, fail a navigation roll, etc.
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:iconcatspaw-dtp-services:
Catspaw-DTP-Services Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2014  Professional Artist
Fair enough! Thanks for the vote.
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