Monday, May 26, 2014

Unexpected (Cartographic) Gift

A few posts ago, I brought up the fictional "Avalon Lost" setting that I've been pondering for the Homebrew '82 role-playing game rules variant.  I've been rolling that little pocket universe around in my head lately (for more, see posts numbered 13-18 in the long list here).  Being a very visual thinker, I've been wanting to be able to set down more about where things are happening, so of course that brings us back into the world of maps!  :-)

Also being probably too anal retentive about details, I realized that I wanted a way to plot out a map at an arbitrary zoom level.  Kind of like if I had Google Maps of Camelot and environs for my alternate-history year 560 AD.

As I was searching for the data that might let me do this, and starting to get depressed about how much work it would be, I discovered something exceedingly cool.  The program that I use pretty much every day for making scientific graphs and plots also happens to be used by a lot of geologists and geographers.  Turns out, they bundled some accurate world coastline and river data into the standard-issue version of the code.  Every day for the last 20 years, I've been logging into a system that can do what I wanted!

So... after writing about a page of code... I got this...

Clicketh if thou likest spam a lot
...which has a few problems, but overall ain't too shabby.  The PDF I made this from can be zoomed-in to something like 1-mile resolution.

So, if I ever finish volume 1 of Homebrew '82 (the generic rules for players), and also manage to churn out volume 2 (tips & tools for GMs), I now have something that would serve as the backbone of a super-duper set of maps for volume 3 (the setting guide for the "Avalon Lost" world).

Easy peasy!

(Above: sarcasm alert... there's soooo much going on in life right now, so I'll probably mark the time in decades before getting all that stuff done.  Still, I'm grateful to have an outlet to think & post about stuff like this that's disconnected from the "real world.")


  1. Replies
    1. Oh, you know what I mean. :-)

      Though maybe it's acronyms you'd like...?

      Rich Environments for Active Learning
      Resist Expose Advertising Lies
      Resource Equality and Liberty
      Resist Evil and Live!
      Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life

      (The last one cheats, using "Real" inside itself!)

    2. Railed Every Alternate Liberty

      (just kidding)

    3. Hey, welcome, Alexis. I thought about your extensive world-mapping efforts when I was starting to do this. I've looked for the British Isles on your wiki, but haven't found them... :-)

      FYI, the software I mentioned is called IDL (Interactive Data Language). Licenses are pricy. There are some free versions with compatible syntax (GDL, PDL -- for gnu and perl), but I don't know if they come with the geo-data.

  2. I like no. 4. Not surprising, I'm sure. :)

    1. I added the exclamation point. I think it's a band, but I was kind of hoping it was a secretive society of superhero wannabes.

      Oh wait, that's Blogger. :-)

  3. Maps... I love maps, as I'm sure I've mentioned before. Man, where were programs like that when I was DMing back in the day?

    1. Maps are fun. You know about the Strange Maps blog, I hope.

      Did you ever talk about your DMing days on your blog?