Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy, Flashback, Labyrinth Lord, Maps, OSR, Retrospective, RPG
In May the Dodecahedron will be a decade old… and that has me in “holy crap, flashbacks!” mode. So I thought I should pull up a self-indulgent look-and-see of how my cartography has changed over the last nine years.
I’m posting two maps from each year, one in June and one in December of that year, and focusing on dungeon maps primarily to keep the comparisons “fair”. That map at the top of 2009 was one of the very first I ever posted to the blog. It is painfully low-resolution and it turns out I can’t find the original anywhere, and don’t have any higher resolution scans of it around. I might even redraw it at some point.
Much of the end of 2009 and 2010 was spent on my “Geomorph Mapping Project” to draw at least 100 interlocking geomorphs. We closed out 2010 with Dyson’s Delve, my mini-mega-dungeon. In 2009 and 2010 I still use “pencil thin” walls – as you can see in the geomorphs and the Dyson’s Delve map. This is something I moved rapidly away from as I developed my style, and have only started sort of coming back to (using thick sharpie markers for walls) in the last year.
These two maps from 2011 showcase my work as it locks into a definite style – avoiding single-stroke walls, adding more detail, and obviously a lot more comfortable with my work. The thick black walls and heavy hatching have become very clear by this point and many of the maps from this year are among my favourites of my older work.
2012 was a bit of a rough spell for me. When I started posting to the blog I was off work on disability for nerve damage. When my workplace disability ran out and I was transferring over to the provincial disability program, I went through several months on the lowest tier of social support, and this kept me from both the internet and from doing much drawing. The maps in 2012 are much sparser and less defined than in 2011, and are a lot less frequent on the blog. But that all changed in December of 2012 with the release of Dyson’s Delves…
2013 sees my maps pick up in quality and quantity again. The feel of the 2011 maps returns, with more time spent per map and a lot of effort put into presentation and structure. This is the year where I start transitioning away from generic black gel pens for my maps and towards using archival felt-tipped pens (Mistubishi Uni Pins and Sakura Microns mostly). More and more of my maps are now being drawn with a grid base – not usually shown on the map proper, but most of the maps in this era through to the end of 2015 are drawn on graph paper, making them easier to use with traditional VTTs and similar.
2014 and 2015 exemplify the style I had developed up to this point. I stabilize to a regular release schedule of maps twice a week. The style is consistent and easy to read. The winter of 2014 includes the release of the Dyson Megadelve, a massive megadungeon project that spans over 30 maps of caverns, dungeons, mines, and the ruins of a dwarven city.
2015 sees the lines for walls gradually getting darker and heavier, making the maps that little bit easier to read.
2015 sees another big stylistic transition in my maps. First I move away from drawing on graph paper, instead drawing on white paper with a sheet of graph paper behind it as a guide. The black lines of my walls thicken yet again, and for a large number of maps I move away from a photoshopped grid to a hand-drawn one.
The hand-drawn grid goes through several styles and iterations over the next few years. Some are better than others, and quite frankly some are disappointing when I look back on them now. Towards the end of the year I also transition from releasing maps as grayscale 300dpi JPG files to black and white 1200 dpi PNGs.
My work this year included a lot of larger commercial projects in addition to my blog maps – and again my style grows and changes. I get into more fine details and in the fall of 2018 I started doing more work digitally after drawing the map in my traditional manner – I often add a bit of shade to the crosshatched areas now, and a fine shadow to help make the walls feel a bit more raised.
Hello Dyson, Thanks for sharing the journey. I’ve been following your maps for a good portion of that time and I have to say, as much as I liked the older maps, your style has really matured and refined. As a fellow designer (graphic, not game) it can be rough looking at some of one’s old work, but it’s great to see the progress. Keep up the great work, and if you’re enjoying it, here’s to another 10!
Paul Baldwin said:
Your maps are inspirational, congratulations on the anniversary, here’s to many more
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Kevin Campbell said:
Nice to see this. I would have thought longer than 9 years.
Reblogged this on DDOCentral.
Nice work! It’s great to see the evolution of your mapping expression. I partcularly like seeing the influence of Jacquays’ dungeon design in the early works. Definitely an inspiration.
Prof° Max said:
Wow!!! Nice work man.
Excellent. Congrats on the longevity!