Strange Map at The Ball of Yarn

March 16, 2011

The barkeep at The Ball of Yarn talks about the map:

“See that funny map on the wall?  Dates back from before the Wizard Wars.  Natives made it by stitching colored thread onto leather.  Captain Monty Foshay organized an expedition when he learned that the Tomb of the Monkey God was yet to be looted and that it lay under a giant gorilla head, right there.

He points to the brown spot at the top of the map.

“Rather than travel upriver through the jungle, Foshay figured it would be easier to enter the jungle by crossing the desert and climbing over the green mountains from the south, there on the right.  Not only that, he would hire hundreds of desert nomads to carry a large ship over the mountains and put it on the river.  Then he hoped to hire thousands of jungle natives to expose the tomb entrance.

“Well, I never saw Foshay again.  Apparently, the expedition got lost in the mountains.  Then, his hired desert nomads didn’t get along with the jungle natives he was hoping to hire, and all hell broke loose.”

Player handout maps are cool.  I was able to design the judge’s map for the Fire in the Jungle supplement so that it felt a little like the old Wilderlands maps by Judges Guild, so my intention was to create a player map also in the Wilderlands style:  mostly blank with a few major features filled.  But at only 16 pages, I decided not to waste space in the supplement on a mostly blank map.

Then I remembered that TSR module B10 Night’s Dark Terror included an abstract player’s map of Karameikos, created by the ancients in the form of a tapestry:

Player's map from B10 Night's Dark Terror

Inspired by this, I used GIMP to create an abstract map of the jungle’s major features, from the point of view of the jungle natives of a prior era.  That’s it at the top of this post.  East is up.  North is to the left.  The blue lines represent rivers.  Just enough detail to make the players curious and give them a little guidance, but vague and inaccurate enough to remain a mystery and spur adventure.  Not as awesome as the B10 tapestry, but it gets the job done.

The original plan was for the player’s map to be the entire back cover, but then Edbon sent me the finished Egot painting.  His art was much more deserving of the entire back cover than was my player’s map, so the map was scaled down and inserted into the player handout page of rumors and legends.  Here is the legend that that was cut to make room for the map:

Sir Tompall finishes a chapter of his memoirs with this:
“Forced into a momentous decision, I determined that the left branch of the river was the most likely.  We followed it for a week or more, until it became clear that we should retreat and retrace our path.  Unfortunately, the constant rains had altered the rivers much and we could no longer tell which was which.  We were lost.  Many of the pilgrims succumbed to the devils of the jungle, or to the subtleties of hunger, until it was only Jorma and I.  Then we witnessed something incredible, what seemed to be a shining city right there in the deepest, darkest jungle!  Being rather undernourished, both Jorma and I were convinced it was a hallucination, and we knew better than to chase such impossible fantasies.  So we turned around, and…lo!…we soon found our way to the coast and back to civilization.”

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