Thursday, August 21, 2014

Happy Birthday Howard Phillips Lovecraft!

My greatest literary role-model started his 124th rotation around the sun yesterday. In other words, he would have turned 124 yesterday had he not died to stomach cancer (a likely result of his abysmal impoverished diet).



I am proud to say I have been fascinated by Lovecraft's writing and the Cthulhu mythos for some 20-years, so well before it became a cultural fad with cthulhu plushies and bobble-heads appeared (not to say I don't like those things, though they do sort of go against the whole idea of the mythos stands for!). His verbose writings and plethora of purple prose and archaic words (cyclopean! eldritch! gibbous!) had a big effect on my own writings and though I can safely say I have moved away from the purple prose that once proliferated my own writing, I still have a soft sport for the almost poetic prose (I'm also thinking alliteration, though I'm not sure that's the case).



Though I do not think there is very much in common between his worlds and mine (apart from maybe an underlying theme of despair), I personally owe a lot to him. The development of the Demiurges in particular owe a lot to the old ones and elder gods. Initially the Demiurges were a lot more uncaring of the mortal races. Though that remains in some regards (in some more than others), it is no longer universally true for they draw their strength from mortal worship so, like it or not, they are inextricably shackled to their children in way the elder gods / old ones are not. 

I also adopted a minor theme with dreams - with the languid Demiurge's dreams shaping the landscape as their actions once did in life. Also, dreams and nightmares are commonly interpreted to be the whispers of the Demiurges transcending their thought. No dreamlands, per se, though it's certainly something i think may have been influenced by Lovecraft. 

Coolest Elder God, by far! beats Cthulhu, tentacles down.


Of course, those who have been following my ramblings might remember the name of one of the Demiurges - Nyarloth. A homage, of sorts to Lovecraft. Though Nyarlathotep and Nyarloth share very little in common with one another. Nyarloth is a technologist amongst Demiurges and he was obsessed with beating death. Where his siblings tried to cheat death through esoteric means, he realised that his body was the issue - he tried to transfer his thought into soul-engines (basically metropolis-sized hard drives). Nyarlathotep is much more of a wanker than that!



So here's to celebrating H. P. Lovecraft and his timeless works!






Friday, August 15, 2014

Classification and Taxonomy of Life

I've been working on the taxonomy of life in Elyden, spending more time coming up with hierarchies than I have actually writing things down. I spent most of yesterday working on the below diagram, showing the creation and subsequent evolution of life in Elyden. It's a mix of creationism and standard evolution, and is a  happy balance that we on Earth find difficult to achieve (of course the in-world verity of this classification is unknown, but it's what people believe at the point in which the encyclopaedia was penned).

Here's an excerpt from the introduction to the section titled 'Classification and Taxonomy of Life':

Life in Elyden is the result of over a billion (1,000,000,000) years change; some conscious and contrived (such as the creation of the Demiurges, or their own creation of most life), and some left to chance and the slow march of time (the slow evolution of moirtal life when left to its own devices). Elyden has ever been the malleable clay atop a great potter’s wheel, and the Demiurges of old were her first craftsmen, lovingly moulding her into shapes that pleased them. Amongst those shapes were the first primordial creatures from which all present life later appeared. Some beings remain in the form first given to them by the Demiurges, walking in skins that are differ little to those of their ancestors millennia past. Others were more mutable and have slowly evolved into the countless differing forms that walk and grow across her skin, glide over her head, and swim through her blood. The Atramenta and Firmament have both played their role in this great act of Shaping, bringing a diversity that aloine could not have been possible.
The diversity of life has always fascinated the mortal tribes. who since their first days observing the world have looked upon the myriad creatures and plants and wondered how they appeared or what forces were responsible for their present shapes. Similarities between creatures gave away the first clues and the rest was a slow process of best-guessing with whatever resources were available at the time. The true breakthrough came in 2993 RM, where the Nártheli polymath and noted genious Suziv first proposed his system of nomenclature. Though it was initially met with criticism, it slowly gained popularity and as scientific advances proved his theories and allowed its system of classification to be fine-tuned, the system was standardised in 3254 RM.
Before trying to classify life one must first ask and understand the fundamental question – what is life? Is it the ability to grow and respond to stimuli, or the ability to reproduce? Is it self-awareness, or an existence that is bounded within the Material Realm? Biologists are concerned with these questions and through the work of Suziv and his descendants we now classify life in five distinct categories, known as the Suzivian Taxonomy – Reghon Arratus (the Created), Reghon Haghorin (Fauna), Reghon Applosae (Flora), Reghon Spungae (Fungi) and Reghon Sulnathin (the Otherborn). There is a degree of overlap and conflict between the Suzivian Taxonomy and passages from the Mythologia Elyden, though it is now understood that the latter is a largely apocryphal text, likely corrupted through millennia of trascriptions and re-interpretations.



A Taxonomical Hierarchy of Life


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Updates from the void.


I’ve been busy formatting the Encyclopaedia Elyden, dividing it up into 4 volumes and editing each to conform to a tone/layout I’ve been working on. I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time figuring out fonts/typefaces I want to use and have been struggling with page breaks for numbering the pages differently (the preface and introduction pages of each volume will be in roman numerals, with the content pages in normal Arabic numerals). It took me a while to get figured out, but I’m, glad I managed as it makes the pages look better.   

I’ve also tracked down a simple java programme to turn the pages into signatures for printing and later hand binding (I’ll be doing that myself, also). For the uninitiated, a hardback book is made up a several smaller booklets, each of which consists of a stack of anything from 4 – 16 pages folded once into a small booklet or signature. Of course when printing such pages on a conventional printer you need to make sure that pages align correctly page 2 is not followed by page 3 when making signatures (the below image might make this clearer)

  
book signature


It’s next to impossible to copy/paste pages to follow that strange numbering order without losing formatting (like column justification) in the process. Luckily I was able to find a programme that takes a complete pdf document and sorts it out into signatures in a new pdf that’s ready for duplex (2-sided printing). Each sheet will be A4: that’s A5 book size after folding the signatures, which corresponds with the feel I’m aiming for. I might change my mind at a later date, though even if I do I doubt I’ll use anything larger than A4, and probably a customer size that’s a bit shorter than full A4 and perhaps a bit narrower.

Of course I won’t be doing any of this quite yet as none of the 4 volumes are anywhere near close to completion. The closest is the 1st volume, which is the encyclopaedia itself – lots of short entries I 2-column format, similar to classical encyclopedias we all know. Here’s a taster of the first 2 arabic-numbered pages.

  



The tome currently clocks in at over 400 individual pages though once complete it’s likely to at least increase by half (many entries are little more than place-holders for now) and I’m constantly adding to it. If it becomes too unwieldy for my DIY bookbinding I’ll just divide it into 2 volumes (A-M, N-Z or thereabouts)



The volumes themselves will be divided thusly:

Volume I: glossary of core terms
Volume II: articles detailing geography, taxonomy, regional histories and information etc.
Volume III: Mythologia Elyden, detailing the main nations' 'bible, other religions, myths, Demiurge histories, genealogies of their descendants etc. 
Volume IV: Atlas Elyden including various political and cultural maps

and volume IV is what's giving me trouble. My prototype maps so far have been made at A4 size, assuming that each leaf is to be A4, implying that each signature is A3. I'd like volume IV to be the same size as the other books so as to have them look nicer as a set, though that would mean having to make the maps smaller. I'm thinking of making each map a 2-page spread, effectively keeping each map as an A4 page, though in landscape format with the page crease down the middle, rather than a full portrait-format page. Hopefully that will get me the detail I wish to include. At worst I'll just need to add other pages with more detailed, larger-scaled 'inset' maps - which is no bad thing! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stereographic World map of Elyden

The Stereographic world map of Elyden is probably the single largest undertaking since the flash of lunacy that caused me to start this whole damned venture! It measures 60” x 84” (a whopping 16,200 x 25,347 px) and it’s so big I’ve had to split it into 2 PSD files (one for the background elements, and another for the stereographic map itself) each around 3GB large.



Work is slow, partially due to its size and the time it takes to perform certain functions, like adding layer styles and filters, as well my sporadic work-schedule, which alternates between work on the map and other facets of my world-building. Also, every label on the map needs to be referenced  in my encyclopaedia, so that I don’t lose track of things (I have a notoriously bad memory, and especially given my irregular updates, I need all the help I can get with organising and remembering things) – nothing goes on any map I make without first at least entering a little note in the encyclopaedia (like: Khadon: city in northern Korachan).

Centre of the map, detailing the Firmament an the Atramenta


The map itself is designed to be an in-world creation, prior to the fall of Korachan, in the latter days of the 5th Age, and could conceivably hang up on the wall of a Patrician’s parlour or merchant-lord’s office. It’s divided into 4 main parts:
  1. the map itself, which is in a stereographic projection over 2 hemispheres (including polar insets).
  2. astronomical maps, detailing the northern and southern hemispheres, and skies and constellations contained therein.
  3. Satellite maps – 2 maps, each detailing the facing hemisphere of one of Elyden’s 2 moons.
  4. Text. There is to be quite a hefty wall of text, detailing all manner of things from the world’s history, regional maps, Demiurges, religions, physical information etc. Some of it may be quite boring (see this post for the physical characteristics), though it all adds to the effect of the style of map I’m looking for.

inset over the eastern Inner Sea


I’m looking for something similar to the below map for the finished product, though with possibly less physics/mathematics and more natural history (so less diagrams and more text), largely due to the fact that I’m quite anal with symmetry and can’t face adding those disparate diagrams! Also I'll try make the text a bit more legible!

 
From the David Rumsey Map collection at - http://www.davidrumsey.com

I’m still unsure of some things – particularly all the empty spaces around the globes. They’ll likely be filled in with text about various subjects though it’s the layout that’s bothering me mostly – as the text will be flanked by circular borders in most cases I’m unsure whether to go for square text block like the bottom of the map, or rounder text blocks like those used in the middle of the map, where I Describe the Firmament and Atramenta. I’ll probably find a compromise between the two, though its always difficult incorporating circular designs within a square frame.                 


Westeros

Not related to Elyden though still to do with a fictional world and mapping: 



A commission I recently finished for a friend of mine, detailing George R.R Martin’s world of Westeros. I have to say this was good fun to make, and I’m quite happy with the colours and the border though the bevel/emboss on the corners is a bit heavy-handed.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

D&D campaign - in Elyden!

I'm very excited to post this update as it brings together two things that have been very important to me – the world of Elyden, which readers will know is the subject of my somewhat sporadic world-building attempts, and D&D (and roleplaying & wargaming in general) which I have been doing since my ahem... younger days.

This marks the first time that I will be setting a game in my world which is quite interesting for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the world was not made with gaming in mind (though I have certainly entertained the thought) and so many things that are common to roleplaying games like classes, races etc. which are made with balance in mind were the last thing I was thinking of so it presented some challenges, particularly with balancing out some of the stranger races.

Though as always what might seem like a hindrance at first ends up being a godsend and I actually ended up adding and refining quite a few things in the world as a result of this.

We haven’t started playing and as is the norm for my motley group of gamers, its to be a small game of evil characters J My games are pretty open world (especially evil-themed ones, where characters tend to have a lot of evil agendas that would otherwise interfere with the traditional roaming party), and I tend to develop an entire region, sprinkling it with interesting background, sites and NPCs that the characters can explore at will. This usually means a lot of stuff doesn’t get used, though it helps the players feel in control – I hate railroading in games (forcing the players to do a particular thing even if they don’t want to, only for the sake of moving the adventure along).

I’m quite fond of DMing but as you might expect from someone whose hobby is crating worlds, I tend to over-prepare most of my games coming up with hooks, regions, NPC’s histories and maps and gods-know what else that probably won’t ever get used. Though the waste of one campaign is the history of another. In fact, those of you who have read the blog before might remember that Elyden was made out of recycled material from previous campaign settings I had devised for D&D and I would not be surprised to see unused things from the campaign being used elsewhere in the world.

The game is to be set in a relatively new region of the world called the Surrach, which means their actions can help shape its flavour.


For anyone interested I’ve included the regional map below, as well as a link to the campaign bible that I’ve sent out to my players. So they can create their characters. Though I’m sure I left out a lot of details. We’re to use D*D 3.5 rules (still my fave so-far, though I am looking forward to trying out 5th edition)

Campaign Bible - please let me know what you think!

campaign map: