Since I began creating Chaldea back in 1981, I’ve gone through several eras of generating and upgrading my maps of the world. Until recently, I’ve always created these myself, as I really love maps and enjoy crafting them. So, I thought it might be fun to blog about these maps and how they evolved and leveled-up over time.
In each case, I’m showing most of the continent of Niessia, which is about 10% of Chaldea.
I got my start in tabletop gaming with board wargames. These games are played on maps of the world overlaid with a hexagonal grid that’s used to maneuver military units made of cardboard chits. Years later, when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, it wasn’t long before I wanted to play wargames set in my own fantasy world. Thus was born the first map of Chaldea, shown in Figure 1. I took preprinted hex sheets, glued them to art board, and colored the world using felt pens. I would have been about 20 years old at the time. This was modeled after some board wargames that existed in the early days of wargaming.
Naturally, soon after completing these maps, a huge world war broke out in Chaldea, and we played it out on these maps! At one time I had close to a thousand counters representing military units deployed on all 20 hex-map sections.
After Wizards of the Coast hit its stride in the mid-‘90s, we had the opportunity to acquire TSR, the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons. During the acquisition process, I went into the TSR offices one Saturday to see if anyone was working on the weekend. While there, I met for the first time the TSR cartography department, Robert Lazzaretti and Dennis Kauth. Since I love maps, we quickly hit it off. When I whined about how I wished I could draw better, Rob and Dennis sat me down and taught me right then and there how they made professional-looking maps for D&D.
Based on spending a Saturday afternoon with the TSR cartography department, I was able to make the maps shown in Figure 2 in 1997.
When Steve Conard and I embarked on creating a Chaldea Web series, we knew right away we would need to make new Chaldea maps. Although I was pretty happy with my mapmaking skills, those maps in Figure 2 were clearly amateurish. Also, we changed some critical elements of how the world worked, the shape of this prime material plane, that required Niessia have a coastline in the south instead of being connected to an arctic shelf.
So, I decided that the best way to make new, professional maps was for me to draw an ink version by hand and then have a professional cartographer polish my work, color it, and finish it in Photoshop. Figure 3 shows my ink version of Niessia from 2017.
For a professional cartographer, the choice was obvious. I went back to Robert “Lazz” Lazzaretti, one of those TSR cartographers I met in 1997 and who now works freelance for all the big players, and offered him the work. Lazz enthusiastically agreed, and in Figure 4 you can see the result.
I have to admit, it’s pretty cool to see a professional version of a map of my homebrewed D&D campaign!
Peter D. Adkison
March 5, 2019