Category Archives: Fantasy

Cathedral Galaxy Regional Maps and GM Resources

Complete Set of Region Maps

The Cathedral Galaxy setting is now complete with a full set of regional maps, each highlighting a particular area of the galaxy and an aspect of the setting. Extra lore and artwork are scattered throughout, in addition to the larger overview map and establishing descriptions of each region posted here. Enjoy!

My next step is writing a story in this galaxy. I will not make any statements on how long that will take!

In addition, I’ve had a few people ask me about setting role-playing games in the Cathedral Galaxy. That idea intrigues me, and I’m happy to learn that players are interested in using my universe for their games. So, I have put together some lore and gameplay reference materials that you may use. Click through to read more.

Game Master References

Updated 23 September 2022

Continue reading Cathedral Galaxy Regional Maps and GM Resources

The Maucland Confederacy

In honor of its tenth anniversary online, the Cartographers’ Guild ran a project to map a large, collaborative world. Each participant contributed a map of one country, done in whatever style they chose and with whatever lore they chose. Some of us compared notes with our neighbors to negotiate trade routes and such. Here is my contribution, the Maucland Confederacy!

I took inspiration from my native New England for the names, landforms, and cultures on this map. I’m particularly proud of “Poscadia” and “Quinnameg!” The names along the border are my neighbor countries. (While I was on the other side of the globe from the Fromage War, I enjoy good relations with Janantara Elubor and the Kingdom in the Clouds.)

I am quite pleased with this pen-and-watercolor-pencil map. The colors came out richly, the overall theme holds together nicely, I was able to experiment with some more map elements than I have previously, and I completed the whole project end-to-end in a month, which makes it my second-fastest map after Abrantoc!

You can see the development of the project in my Cartographers’ Guild work-in-progress thread here. Be sure to check out some of the other wonderful maps in this forum!

Some web tweaks to highlight maps

I’ve just completes a couple tweaks to the main web site associated with Quantum Rocketry, with the goal of bringing my cartographic artwork more front and center. Note that:

  • I take commissions! And I would be willing to sell some existing original pieces. (Really! It’s not all spacecraft engineering with me.) Got a fantasy novel, RPG, or just a private world you want depicted in hand-drawn style?
  • I’ve uploaded several more maps for you to purchase as prints on Imagekind, including the latest Gliese 581g, as well as two maps not yet featured here, Abrantoc and Erthal Province Frontier!


Gliese 581g (Hámnù, Pedak, Gaustan, or Estivama)

I finished a big new map! You can purchase a print here.

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The world known to humankind as Zarmina (catalog identifier Gliese 581g) is a habitable planet orbiting a red dwarf star. It is tidally locked to its dim sun, such that one face of the planet always points toward the sun. The most striking consequence of this orbit geometry is that the habitable region of the planet is a disk-shaped area roughly the size of an earthly continent. The center of this zone always sees a sun at high noon, while toward the edge of the disk, the sun sinks gradually away from zenith. Outside this region, Zarmina is encased in ice. As the sun does not define east and west, the cardinal direction convention on Zarmina refers to the planet’s orbit, instead: prograde (in the direction of the orbit), retrograde, normal (up from the orbit), and antinormal.

Zarmina does not exhibit evidence of plate tectonics. Surface features express several processes: large-scale rift graben form from tidal stresses, shield volcanoes build over mantle hotspots, impact craters and basins dot the planet, and erosion slowly whittles down the more ancient features.

The world hosts life with biodiversity similar to the Earth. One dominant intelligent species has settled across the landmass, with cultures reaching technological development levels roughly equivalent to 1300-1600 CE on Earth. There are three regions with large populations, indicated on the map in normal-retrograde (NR), antinormal-prograde (AP), and normal-prograde (NP) callouts. In the four major language families of Zarmina, the natives call their world Hámnù, Pedak, Gaustan, or Estivama.

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The NR region hosts two major linguistic and cultural families. The first is an empire ruled from the city of Hòmp Sīnkà (Port Sinka). Explorers and artisans populate this empire; though the political extent of the empire only reaches as far as Níngtòhús (Greencliff), speakers of the imperial language can be found all along the coast in the prograde direction as well as in coastal settlements on the other side of Fíkùm Pòst (The Normal-Direction Sea). The antinormal borders of the empire are more ragged and contentious, however – the imperial urge to spread its vision of culture and knowledge brings it into direct conflict with the city-states in that area. The people of Kivod Sev Adoso (Mountain Gate Town) dominate the substantial resources of Sev Skem (Mountain Channel) and have repelled several campaigns launched from Hútpòkā (Chasmtop). Hòmp Sīnkà rapidly loses its stomach for these campaigns, and so Kivod Sev Adoso holds back imperial expansion. A more fluid and contentious collision of cultures occurs in Pasken Gimet (Pasken Forest). Scattered settlements under the command of local chiefs raid imperial populations farming antinormal of Ngùsì Āmā (Wide River) while imperial reprisals prevent the Pasken peoples from incorporating large towns. The disparate kindgoms of Ogjapud (Grayrock), Katofa Petang (Retrograde City), and Fetva Zand (Calm Peninsula) maintain their own set of animosities and alliances.

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The plains of the AP region offer little shelter from the winds that blow in off the ocean. As the land rises, larger and larger plants cover the land until one encounters lush prairies between dendritic river networks. Roaming clans live on the prairie “kidan.” A few large settlements dot the kidan, most notably Jung a Uid Nakaun (the City of Two Rivers). The kida clans take pride in not pinning themselves to a particular place – many of their dwellings are portable, and they happily move their crops to new locations on the fertile plains when they tire of the old. The culture is leery of townfolk. The Ushtin clan is a splinter from the kida clans, and is more attached to their resource-rich homeland on the shore of Gaiju a Shai (Lake of Wind). On the other end of the cultural spectrum, the dramatically different Togui a Awaish (Chasm of the Forest) hosts a sect worshipping the sun god Dautwai. This sect possesses the settlements of Santiso (roughly, Above-the-Green) and Uigonja (named for the uigon trees), as well as a major urban center in Jung Togunau. From the isthmus of the Nakau Dautwai, dramatic views of the Audos a No (Mountain of the Sun) have inspired monuments throughout the city. The natural defenses of Togui a Awaish shield the people within from raiding kida clansmen.

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Lush lands and geographic barriers squeezed into a comparatively smaller area give rise to the warring city-states of the NP region. Though they share a common linguistic root, each of the population centers here represent separate nations. The largest are Evinbok and Neka Estag, both named for their original monarchs. Evinbok holds a position of strategic strength, with access to productive outlying farmland in Pantma Zhusti (the Upper Plains), while timber and easily quarried rock are in the ancient impact basin of Gesta Kazi (Broken Bowl). Kagzai (roughly, Blue-ton) and Ka Topi (Lower Town) are notable for practicing a form of representative democracy. Ka Shata Besi (High Cliff Town) is the center of a prosperous small nation of traders, who build ships from the timber of Tifa ko Pantma Shti (Forest of the Red Plain) and sail through Vimna Shti (Red Pass) as far antinormal as Sot Ushtin.

This map is hand-drawn with Pigma Micron pens of various types, then colored in Derwent watercolor pencils. I finish the map by painting over the pencils to blend and soften the watercolors together. The last step is photographing the piece with a 60 mm macro lens. The entire thing is 17″ wide and 14″ tall.

Enjoy, everybody!

New map! “The Scientik Age”

Giant's Causeway on steroids!The culture of this world is having a bit of a renaissance: they are discovering frontiers of architecture, science, commerce, and engineering. The terrain of rolling hills gives way to basaltic columns – which the cartographer emphasizes, likely beyond plausibility, as an artifact of this renaissance. Those columns shape the flow of nearby waterways. Scattered around the region are representations of monuments and landmarks: the White Palace, the Water-Whele, the Observatorie, the Derrick, the Beacone.

I’ve had this idea lodged in my head for a while, to do a map along the lines of, oh, every hexagon-dominated sci-fi map ever. I wanted to caricature the Giant’s Causeway, and I had the goal of using the hexagonal columns to play with the flow of water. That turns out to be only a minor feature of this map, playing second fiddle to the color. I’m particularly happy with the color blending I got in the peninsula just below center-left. The labels are something I’ve done before, incoherent scribbles that try to give the impression of glyphs, but pushed further than I’ve done before to include bullet lists and parenthetical notes.

Legends and Histories

I wanted to try drawing a map full of labels, but no place names. Instead, I would fill it with events and stories suggestive of the cultures living in the lands I depicted. This is the result:

The Map of Legends

Much of the importance we place on a location comes from the stories associated with it. So, this map is covered in people and actions identified with places. Their struggles and triumphs fill the lands, drawing us into chains of associations.

Here camped Lastos’ army on the eve of battle. Sfola’s Last Masterpiece depicts this forest. Foalic stole the Emerald Shield from this cave. Here was the site of the Second Arbiter’s Congress – possibly related to the Fishers’ Revolt, the first shots of which were fired in this nearby village.

Lands of Allaje and Malaca

Looking at the labels, you may notice that roughly half of them have a preceding number in parentheses – what might appear to be a year. These labels speak of military campaigns, scientific exploits, political victories, founding of religions, and significant personages. The other half, without a corroborating date stamp, mention more dramatic exploits: giant creatures, heroic duels, stolen artifacts, and encounters with the supernatural. Are these myths of the local culture? Or do they hold some kernel of truth? Continue reading Legends and Histories

A debut of sorts

I completed another map over the past few months – and this one has some special distinctions. Namely, it was my first commission and sale! So, be it known that I do that now.

I started from sketch maps, place names, and some stylistic suggestions, but for the most part my own input comes in the artistry and execution. The layout, terrain, and languages are not my own. As I’ve gradually stopped tying maps to my own fantasy world and started drawing them as art for their own sake, it was interesting to put one together based on a set of stories belonging to someone else!

Plains, rocky isles, temperate forests, and ocean

I used the opportunity to try some new(er) techniques, of necessity. I made the decision to do the entire map in black and white, which meant finding ways to distinguish different terrain types with shading and symbols. Grasslands got a light wash, with little grass symbols in two shades. I indicated deserts with a wavy dune-like pattern in very dilute ink. And water took on texture from rough brushstrokes. I also had to have some idea how to handle labels early on (rough though my own lettering may be).

Desert, mountains, and tropics

One of the challenges was that this map depicted a region of continental scale. I indicate this by scale: the mountain ranges I drew here don’t reach the heights they do on other maps. I’m particularly happy with the mountains; I think their shapes and shading worked out nicely to give a rough, natural feel to their slopes. The scale of the map also made forests tricky. On a map like Zarmina, I could show forests – and their type – by color. Here, that was not an option. I did some experiments on scratch paper with shading ideas, but in the end I came back to my first idea: tiny trees. Tiny scalloped symbols for deciduous trees, tiny jagged angles for pine trees, and tiny swoosh-topped wedges for tropical palms.

Seriously. Tiny trees.

This all came about thanks to my discovery that my superfine pen nib was terrible, but I had a second one that I’d never tried lying around. Turns out that one was much easier to control.

The mixed-up tree styles worked very well, giving me a simple mechanic to distinguish different parts of the map and giving this map something (so far) unique, in the way it divides the viewer’s attention from the larger, broader scales to the smaller, more detail-oriented bits. I also learned more about how the ink behaves in washes, and I’m looking forward to manipulating some of those effects in my next personal project – already underway!

Fantastic Cartography Again

I know I’ve liked to draw fantastical maps for a long time now. So, I should not have been surprised at how much fun I had producing a fancy version of a map for a world I’ve been working with for several years. I figured out techniques for drawing the shorelines, forests, and mountain ranges that I think were very successful. I used a lot of watercolor pencil washes, with india ink for lines.

Map of the Southern Continent

Still, though I like it as an image, the product isn’t a perfect map. I made the decision to try and put in all the physical features before any points of interest of placenames, with the intention of doing so in an overlay. None of my scratch tests for such labels worked very well; I ended up putting labels on the map in postprocessing on my computer. Not ideal, but at the same time, it came out okay.

I had such a great time producing the map over the course of a couple of weeks worth of coming home from work, making dinner, and then throwing NPR on while I sat down with my pen and ink. (It was a very meditative sort of endeavor.) I have also been keen on trying to improve the map. Fortunately for me, Fiancée loved the thing and requested that I produce a similar map based on a template which she supplied to me. Well, then. I didn’t need a second excuse to start.

Map of Faerie

I worked primarily from the template; but I had leave to make some modifications such as putting detail on coastlines or changing river courses to be more realistic. I stuck with the same general techniques that worked so well for me on the first map.

This time, though, I planned a bit better. I noted the positions of the physical features; but I also included the major landmarks and indicated to myself where text labels would go. When I inked in the forests and mountains on this map, I left myself spaces for the labels. I practiced ink lettering on scrap paper, came up with a font style that I thought would be fitting, and this time put hand-lettered placenames directly on the paper.

A nicely labeled forest

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t succeed in all instances – this paper absorbed the ink in a very different way depending on whether there was a good base layer of pencil in place – but I like the results, in general. You can also see that this time I have added some carmine red ink to my repertoire, to add accents or denote features on the map (here, provincial boundaries from the template map). Another set of new features comes from a few special points of interest on the map. I will comment that inking a small symbol, such as crossed swords, on a large paper map comes with a particular set of challenges: ink is almost impossible to remove without leaving evidence, and so once I set about drafting such a symbol on the final image, I was committed to it! After all, I’d hate for one badly botched, critical item to ruin the whole work. (Happily, little goofs in the mountains and such simply add to the character of such an image!)

City and Battlefield

Just for grins, I threw on some other embellishments around the coastlines. You know: sea monsters and such. I’m particularly happy with this little guy.

Big fish

I still have the map in my apartment and I’m thinking about whether I should add some kind of border, but I think I’m just going to let Fiancée mat and frame it however she likes.

Now I’ve just got to think about what cartographic project to do next…