Some Quick Links

Featured

If you want to go to the very first post on the Atlas of Ice and Fire, click here.

Some other useful links:

How big is the world anyway?

The Size and Extent of Westeros and The Size and Extent of Essos, Sothoryos and Ulthos.

A Political Map of the Known World.

Terra Incognita: Beyond the Known World.

The Population of the Seven Kingdoms and The Population of the Free Cities.

Unreliable Timelines and Confused Dates.

A Song of Lines and Latitude.

Wonders Made by Man and The Seven Natural Wonders of the Known World.

Historical Map 1: The Dawn of Days and other Historical Maps.

Geographic Map 1: The Known World and other Geographic Maps.

Malazan Book of the Fallen Atlas.

Wheel of Time Atlas.

A New Wheel of Time World Map

After my new map of the main Wheel of Time continent, I’ve created a new map of the entire world.

Wheel Of Time World Map

A new map of the Wheel of Time world. Please click for a larger version.

This map draws upon the canonical world map in The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, but I have replaced the very rough details of the continents with the more detailed continental maps. For the most part they match exactly and consistently.

 

Description of the World

(note: this is a partial reprint of a previous article)

The world a great sphere, some 24,900 miles in circumference. Most of its surface is covered by water, in liquid form as the great oceans and in ice at the poles. It is circled by a single moon, and is the third of at least six great planets circling the sun (ancient records suggest that there may be either eight or nine planets – the records seem to argue the point rather heatedly – but the others are too distant to be seen easily).

There are three major landmasses known to exist. In the northern hemisphere lies a large landmass with no single unified name: the western third is known – with a slight lack of creativity – as the Westlands or “wetlands”; the central area is known as the Aiel Waste; and the eastern part is known (most commonly) as Shara. The Westlands are the home of great kingdoms such as Andor, Illian and Saldaea and the seat of Aes Sedai power at Tar Valon. To the north of all three regions lies the vast, forbidding and hostile Great Blight, the home of Shadowspawn who plague the north of all the lands.

South of the Westlands and south-west of Shara lie two large island archipelagos. These are the home of the Atha’an Miere, the “People of the Sea” or, in common parlance, the Sea Folk. The Sea Folk spend most of their lives at sea aboard huge ships, the greatest vessels afloat, and facilitate trade between the nations of the world, although they do not cross the Aryth Ocean.

Far to the west of the Westlands, across the colossal Aryth Ocean (successor to the World Sea of the Age of Legends), lies the continent of Seanchan. Divided into two landmasses by a huge dividing channel, Seanchan is the largest continent in the world. It almost girdles the planet from pole to pole. It is home to hundreds of distinct cultures, races and societies, but they all live under the authority and yoke of the Seanchan Empire, the most powerful and populous nation on Earth. Founded by colonists from the Westlands more than a thousand years ago, the Seanchan have long dreamt of returning to their homeland and re-establishing communications…and dominance.

Far to the south of the Westlands, across the tempestuous Sea of Storms, lies an obscure continent known only as the “Land of the Madmen.” The Breaking of the World remains ongoing in this land, as the male channelers were never wiped out. Instead, they continue to ravage the land and the landscape, resulting in near-constant earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods. This has prevented any kind of civilisation from emerging, leaving even the non-channelling population in a constant state of turmoil, trauma and dread. The inhabitants of the continent attack strangers on sight. Despite multiple attempts by the Sea Folk to establish a peaceful dialogue with the inhabitants, they have been unable to visit the land without being assaulted. They have declared the continent off-limits and forbidden all travel there.

South of the Land of the Madmen lies a vast region of ice, many thousands of miles across. According to ancient records from the Age of Legends and even before, an entire continent once existed at the south pole, but its fate in the Breaking is unknown. Some believe it is still there, frozen under miles of glaciers.

North-west of the Westlands lies a foreboding region of water which is completely lifeless. No fish or aquatic life can be found here at all, north of the latitude of the southern edge of the Great Blight. The Sea Folk call stretch of ocean the Dead Sea, and it continues westwards for as far as they have explored. North of the Dead Sea lies the northern polar ocean, which is impassable at all times of year due to being frozen solid.

To the east, beyond Shara, lies the Morenal Ocean (sometimes called the Sea of Omerna), which separates that land from the Seanchan continent. Curiously, linear measurements show that the distance from Shara to Seanchan across the Morenal Ocean is far smaller than the distance from the Westlands to Seanchan across the Aryth, raising interesting questions about why the most well-travelled sea lanes between the two landmasses are the longer route across the Aryth Ocean. This suggests that the Morenal Ocean may be too dangerous to traverse, or a past confrontation between Shara and Seanchan convinced the Seanchan to give that nation a wide berth. The truth of this remains speculative.

NewWoTBase

A new map of the Westlands. Please click for a larger version.

Speculation

The world of the Wheel is, of course, Earth in a remote future epoch (I would estimate between 15,000 and 20,000 years from now). The continents have been dramatically rearranged by the Breaking of the World, with only Australia being vaguely recognisable and even that have been altered significantly in shape and apparently increased somewhat in size.

Contrasting the time of the Wheel with our own, it appears that the world is cooler. Both the polar icecaps are huge, much larger than our own, with Antarctica (or whatever part of it survived the Breaking) completely buried under reams of ice. The larger icecaps increase the albedo of the planet and reflect more sunlight into space, likely cooling it further. The known deserts are much smaller than in our time (with the possible exception of dry lands deep in the Seanchan interior) and temperate forests exist at tropical latitudes. The world is likely rainier than now, due to the much vaster oceans giving rise to larger rain clouds (this is indicated by the vast ceranos storms that ravage the southern coast of the Westlands).

Robert Jordan declined to provide a name for the main continent (the one containing Andor, Tar Valon, Illian etc). The closest presented in the books was “the wetlands,” a descriptive name created by the Aiel. Fans coined the name “Randland” early on, but this was clearly impractical for an in-universe name. Finally, The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game came up with the name “The Westlands” which Jordan seems to have reluctantly adopted (he used the name himself in several articles and notes), but not been very keen on. In-universe, the name Alindhol may have been appropriate: alin means “west” in the Old Tongue and dhol means “land.”

Robert Jordan was well aware that Seanchan was much closer to Shara across the Morenal Ocean than to the Westlands across the Aryth, specifying as much in the geographic notes (presented below) that he gave to John M. Ford to make the world map in The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time in 1995. Jordan never addressed why the Seanchan embarked on a lengthy 11,000 mile journey across the Aryth Ocean rather than nipping around the south coast of Shara to invade the Westlands via Mayene and Tear, which was less than half that distance (and maybe closer to a third). Fans have presented various ideas, including a previous confrontation between Seanchan and Shara that resulted in a bloody defeat and Seanchan backing off (this seems unlikely); insufficiant infrastructure on the west coast of Seanchan, with all of the major ports and shipyards for the invasion located on the east coast; much more favourable currents heading east across the Aryth then west across the Morenal; and potential manipulations by the Forsaken. The truth remains unclear.

From Robert Jordan’s notes to John Ford:

“The world of the books is the same size as our world.  After all, it’s supposed to be our world, with all the tectonic plates shifted.  Some reference points:

  • Falme to Seanchan across the Aryth Ocean is about 11,000 miles.
  • Seanchan to Shara across the Sea of Omerna is about 3,000 miles.
  • The Aiel Waste is about 1,200 miles across, while Shara is about 2,000 miles (W-E) by 5,000 miles (N-S), with the Great Blight extending further south in Shara than in the Borderlands.
  • Seanchan is about 16,000 miles from the southern tip to the Mountains of Dhoom (named by Hawkwing’s armies) in the north—yes, the same mountain range that girdles the world on land and under the ocean.  The north of Seanchan is about 2,000 miles across at its widest, and there is a span of 6,000 miles at its widest in the south.
  • South of the known world is an island continent known only to the Sea Folk, but avoided by them, which they call “the Land of the Madmen.”  Its dimensions are about 3,000 miles (W-E) by 2,000 miles (N-S), with its southern coast less than 500 miles from the southern ice cap in places.  Some speculate on the resemblance of this continent, in all respects, to current-day Australia, but on this we have no opinion.

“There are both northern and southern ice caps.  The southern ice cap completely covers whatever land is beneath it, and is larger than Antarctica.  The northern ice cap also stretches somewhat further south than in our world.”

 

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.

A New Wheel of Time Map

Over a year ago I embarked on the Wheel of Time Atlas project, which unfortunately stalled due to dissatisfaction with the maps I was using. After some consideration I decided to redraw the main map at a much higher scale to make continuing that project easier. This has taken a while but has now been done.

NewWoTBase

A new map of the Westlands. Please click for a much larger version.

The main differences are the much higher scale, a new and clearer way of depicting mountains, the use of coloured backdrops and the addition of flags and more locations that were missing from the previous versions of the map. Hopefully this is much better for everyone checking the map out.

Technical note: I’m informed that these very-high-resolution maps are not rendering correctly on some mobile devices, particularly some types of Android mobile phone. As far as I can tell this is an automatic process to save memory and space. At the moment I am not aware of a work-around. The maps should register at full resolution via PC, tablet and most other devices.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

A New Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones World Map

It’s been a long time coming, but I have completed my new complete map of the known world in A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones).

ASoIaF Known World New Mountains

Please click or tap for a much, much bigger version.

My previous map was a sneak peak at Westeros, but since then I’ve redone the mountains to look at least a bit better and then completed work on Essos, Sothoryos and Ulthos. This new map is the most complete world map ever assembled for A Song of Ice and Fire, drawing not just on the world map in Lands of Ice and Fire but also the extended map in The World of Ice and Fire (which goes further north and south) and information that came to light only in Fire and Blood (can you spot the islands Elissa Farman discovered?).

This new map is huge at 10,000 pixels wide, so you may find it easier to download the image to peruse as your leisure.

My previous serious of historical and geographical maps should be updated in the future with information from this new, more colourful map, although it’s going to take some considerable time to update everything. As usual, thanks to everyone for their support.

ASoIaF Known World New Mountains

This is a .png version which may display better on some smartphones. Please tap for a larger version.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

A Map of Glen Cook’s Dread Empire

Here’s something different, a map of a fantasy series I haven’t actually read: The Dread Empire saga by Glen Cook. Cook is best known for his Black Company series and the more recent Instrumentalities of the Night sequence, but Dread Empire is his first work of epic fantasy.

Dread Empire

A map of the western world in The Dread Empire. Please click for a larger version.

The Dread Empire series consists of eight novels and a short story collection. The series is set mostly in the lands to the west the Dread Empire, for which Glen Cook uncharacteristically provided a map in the books. However, he later removed maps from the original books and did not provide maps for the later books, which focus on the Empire and the lands to the east.

The Dread Empire series consists of:

A Cruel Wind

  1. A Shadow of All Night Falling (1979)
  2. October’s Baby (1980)
  3. All Darkness Met (1980)

A Fortress in Shadow

  1. The Fire in His Hands (1984)
  2. With Mercy Toward None (1985)

Wrath of Kings

  1. Reap the East Wind (1987)
  2. An Ill Fate Marshalling (1988)
  3. A Path to Coldness of Heart (2012)

An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat (2008, short story collection.

 

Cook originally wrote the series as a “main series” (the first three books), a prequel duology (the next two) and then a sequel trilogy which would wrap things up. However, his only extant manuscript for the proposed third sequel book, The Wrath of Kings, was stolen after he completed it. Cook was so demoralised that he chose not to rewrite the book or work on a further three books he had planned for the series. It was almost a quarter of a century before he could finally bring himself to complete the series for good.

I plan to read the Dread Empire series next year, so will try to update the maps as I go.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

A Map of Paul Kearney’s MONARCHIES OF GOD

One of the very finest epic fantasy series of all time – and by the most underrated – is Paul Kearney’s five-volume Monarchies of God. Published between 1995 and 2002, the series depicts a multi-sided war for the fate of the continent of Normannia, the home of the five Monarchies of God and numerous lesser principalities. The Merduks of the east have captured the Holy City of Aekir, the centre of the Ramusian faith, and now stand poised to invade the kingdom of Torunna. Torunna’s armies muster at Ormann Dyke to try to hold them at bay, but are outnumbered almost ten to one.

Monarchies of God Original

A map of Normannia and the Monarchies of God. Please click for a larger version.

Meanwhile, in the far western kingdom of Hebrion, master mariner Richard Hawkwood is commissioned by the crown to lead an expedition to find the fabled Western Continent. Hawkwood is dubious, but the mission will be crewed by Dweomer-folk, persecuted witches and wizards in danger of being burnt at the stake by the increasingly zealous Inceptine Knights of the Holy Church. King Abeleyn of Hebrion is enraged by the Church impressing itself on the secular powers of the Five Kingdoms and yearns to defy them, even if it risks a religious civil war.

Other forces are at work. Dark magic is prowling the land, and in the east the seeds of a new conflict are sowed. The ruthless and fanatical Himerius has been declared the new High Pontiff, but word has come that Macrobius, the old Pontiff, has survived the fall of Aekir. The nations of the west are torn asunder and have to choose their causes. The fate of the continent falls on the shoulders of one redoubtable sea captain, one woman from Aekir taken into the camp of the enemy and one low-ranking officer who finds in himself the gift for war.

Monarchies of God Original

Paul Kearney’s original map of Normannia from Hawkwood’s Voyage (1995).

A Map of Normannia

Paul Kearney created maps of Normannia for the original publication of The Monarchies of God, along with expanded maps of several local regions. For the reprinting of the series by Solaris in omnibus editions, the maps were redrawn by designer Simon Parr.

The maps here are based on both the redrawn maps and Paul’s originals, correcting a few minor errors (the Saeroth River is rendered as “Sabroth”) and adding numerous locations and names given in the text of the book.

 

Notes on the Map

Ramusian Kingdoms, Major: Hebrion, Astarac, Perigraine, Almark, Torunna.

Ramusian Kingdoms, Minor: Principality of Fulk, Duchy of Touron, Candelaria, Tarber, Finnmark, Gardiac, Kardikiam, Gabrion.

Merduk Kingdoms, Major: Hardukh, Kambaksk, Kurasan, Ostrabar, Nalbeni, Calmar.

Merduk Kingdoms, Minor: Ridawan, Kashdan, Danrimir, Kolchuk, Yazdegard, Punt, Azbakir.

Other Nations: Hardian Provinces, Hardalen, Fimbrian Republic (Ramusian but not controlled by the church), Macassar (corsair enclave).

 

The Monarchies of God is available now in two omnibus editions: Hawkwood and the Kings (UK, USA) and Century of the Soldier (UK, USA).

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

The Dragon Prince: Season 3 Map

Season 3 of The Dragon Prince launched on Netflix recently, so it seemed a good idea to update the world map with locations revealed in the third season.

Dragon Prince Season 3 Without Route

A map of the Dragon Prince continent. Please click for a larger version.

I’ve also added a route to the map, showing Callum and Rayla’s route across the continent across the first three seasons.

Dragon Prince Season 3

A map showing the route of the Dragon Prince in Seasons 1-3. Please click for a larger version.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

Mapping Avatar: The Last Airbender

One of the most popular and critically-acclaimed animated series of the last fifteen years is Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. Airing three seasons between 2005 and 2008, the show told the story of the Avatar, a twelve-year-old boy named Aang, the only person in the world able to field all four of the magical elements. Aang waged war against the evil Fire Lord Ozai, aided by a band of friends and allies, and eventually defeated the Fire Lord in an epic finale. Between 2012 and 2014 a sequel series, The Legend of Korra aired. The creators of Avatar are now working on a live-action version of the series for Netflix, expected to air in 2021.

Avatar Last Airbender Base Map

A map of the Avatar: The Last Airbender world. Please click for a much larger version.

The creators of Avatar mapped the world the story takes place in very early on: a map of the world appears in the opening credits of every episode. Over the course of 61 episodes, numerous locations were visited and diligently added to the map by fans.

The Avatar world consists of one major continental landmass which dominates an entire hemisphere. This landmass is mostly controlled by the Earth Kingdom, from its enormous capital city at Ba Sing Se. To the west of this landmass is a much smaller continent which is controlled by the Fire Nation. The Fire Nation also controls the island archipelago extending eastwards towards the main landmass, as well as another subcontinent located just off the north-western coast of the main landmass (a region known as the Fire Nation Colonies, and by the time of The Legend of Korra has become the United Republic of Nations).

There are small continental landmasses located at both the northern and southern polar regions, controlled by the Northern Water Tribe (the more populous and powerful of the two) and the Southern Water Tribe.

There are also a string of smaller island archipelagos and a stretch of the northern coastline of the main continent which used to be controlled by the Air Nomads.

In the backstory of the series, the Fire Lord Sozin had harnessed the power of an approaching comet to embark on a war of destruction and conquest. He was opposed by Avatar Roku, but after Roku perished in a volcanic eruption Sozin had a window of opportunity to begin the war before the new Avatar came of age. Twelve years after Roku’s death, Sozin began the war and destroyed the Air Nomads utterly. Unfortunately for him, the new Avatar Aang had been accidentally frozen in an iceberg and so escaped his purge.

Avatar Last Airbender Map with Season 1 Route

A map depicting the action in Season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Click for a larger version.

NOTE: Spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender follow.

Book I: Water

In Avatar‘s first season (or “Book”), Aang is awoken after 100 years in the iceberg by Sokka and Katara, two young members of the Southern Water Tribe. Aang learned that the Fire Nation had conquered vast swathes of the world and now planned to conquer the rest. He saw this for the first time when Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation raided Sokka and Katara’s village. With their help, Aang defeated Zuko and resolved to help save the world. Sokka and Katara joined Aang on his flying air bison, Appa. Katara, a waterbender, agreed to teach Aang in the ways of water magic.

Their journey took them to the Southern Air Temple, Aang’s old home, before they visited Kyoshi Island (the home of the Avatar before Roku) and Omashu, the second-largest city in the Earth Kingdom, ruled by the ancient King Bumi (who was a childhood friend of Aang’s). They visited a mining village under threat from the Fire Nation, a crescent island where Avatar Roku was honoured and the village of Gaipan, defeated by band of freedom fighters led by the misguided Jet. They then crossed the forbidding Great Divide, visited a town during an immense storm and evaded Fire Nation pursuit at the stronghold of Pohuai. They then visited an abbey where Sokka and Katara learned their father was still alive and still fighting the Fire Nation, then met a Fire Nation deserter in a remote village. They visited the Northern Air Temple before finally pressing on to the great capital city of the Northern Water Tribe.

During their journey, they were pursued by Zuko. Zuko had been banished from his homeland for defying his father, Fire Lord Ozai, and saw capturing the Avatar as a way of regaining his honour. However, Zuko several times saw Fire Nation troops behaving dishonourably, including his own rival for capturing Aang, Admiral Zhao. Zhao led a huge Fire Nation armada against the Northern Water Tribe and almost succeeded in killing Aang and destroying the city, but Zuko betrayed him and saved Aang. Using a powerful form of bending known as the Avatar State, Aang then destroyed Zhao’s invasion fleet.

Avatar Last Airbender Map with Season 2 Route

A map depicting the action in Season 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Please click for a larger version.

Book II: Earth

Having defeated Zhao’s fleet, the team relocated to Omashu so Aang could learn earthbending from Bumi, but they found Omashu under Fire Nation occupation. With Zuko in disgrace, his sister Azula had now been sent to capture Aang in his stead and several major battles erupted as she pursued the Avatar relentlessly.

In the city of Gaoling, “Team Avatar” (so-dubbed by Sokka) met a powerful blind earthbender named Toph, who joined the group to become Aang’s teacher. They crossed the mountains into the vast Si Wong Desert, pursuing rumours of Wan Shi Tong’s fabled library. They found the library and some useful and terrifying knowledge: at the end of summer, Sozin’s Comet would return, granting immense power to the Fire Lord. But, several weeks before then, a solar eclipse would take place over the Fire Nation capital, stripping the firebenders of their power. This gave the Fire Nation a moment of weakness when they could be defeated.

Unfortunately, Appa was kidnapped by sandbenders, forcing the team to proceed on foot to the great Earth Kingdom capital city of Ba Sing Se. They helped save the city from a Fire Nation attack, but learned that the Earth King had become a puppet, sealed from the outside world by his secret police who made sure no news of the war got to him. Eventually Aang and his friends convinced him of the threat, just in time for the secret police, the Dai Li, to launch a coup, aided by Azula. Zuko and his uncle Iroh had been living in the city in secret and initially opposed Azula, but at a key moment Zuko decided to join forces with her and helped her severely wound and apparently kill Aang. However, thanks to Katara’s discovery of spiritual healing magic, Aang was saved. Appa was also rescued and the gang reunited. Ba Sing Se had fallen to the Fire Nation, however.

Avatar Last Airbender Map with Season 3 Route

A map depicting the action in Season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Please click for a larger version.

Book III: Fire

Aang awoke to find that his friends had taken him to safety on the crescent island. From there they made their way along the Fire Nation archipelago. Their friends and allies from all over the world were gathering, planning to launch an assault on the enemy capital on the Day of Black Sun, the day of the eclipse.

The invasion was launched, but unfortunately failed: Azula had learned of the plan in Ba Sing Se and the Fire Lord had evacuated, remaining safe whilst he sat out the eclipse. Many of Aang’s allies were captured and imprisoned.

As the core Team Avatar group travelled, they were joined by an unexpected ally: Zuko had finally renounced the Fire Nation and joined forces with Aang. He gave Aang a crash-course in firebending and they both learned new techniques from the last two living dragons in the world. The team also rescued some of their captured allies from the formidable Boiling Rock prison. The group finally launched their final gambit: several of the team helped liberate Ba Sing Se (aided by the secret society known as the Order of the White Lotus), whilst others destroyed the Fire Nation’s fleet of new airships. Aang confronted Ozai in battle and defeated him, but rather than kill him he used a technique known as “energybending” to strip Ozai of his ability to firebend.

The war was over. Zuko became the new Fire Lord. His father and sister (the latter driven insane) were permanently imprisoned and the other nations freed from the threat of war.

Over the decades that followed, many new challenges arose to test the Avatar and his allies. The Fire Nation colonies in the north-west of the Earth Kingdom were reluctant to leave, especially the ones that had been established for a century with both earthbenders and firebenders living alongside one another in peace. The Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom almost came to the bring of war over the issue, until the Avatar settled it by forging a new, fifth nation out of the colonies: the United Republic of Nations. On the site of an ancient city founded by the noted ruler Tienhai, a new capital was founded: Republic City. And, seventy years after Ozai’s defeat, after Aang’s own passing, the next Avatar, Korra, would make her home there. But that is a story for another time.

Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.

A Map of the Forgotten Realms

The Forgotten Realms – the default setting for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game – form one of the largest, most detailed and most popular fantasy worlds ever created. It is the brainchild of Canadian writer Ed Greenwood who started developing it as a setting for fantasy stories when he was just eight years old. Ten years later he began running D&D campaigns set in the same world, and also began writing articles for Dragon Magazine. The first mention of the Realms in-print came in 1978. Over the next eight years Greenwood became a popular writer of articles for the magazine and he included plenty of hints about his own campaign world in the process.

Toril Final

A new map of the world of Abeir-toril. Please click for a larger version.

In 1986 TSR, Inc., the publishers of D&D, were looking for a new setting. The Dragonlance setting had been an enormous success, but the feeling was that the continent of Ansalon was too small to serve as a setting for lots of stories. D&D creator Gary Gygax was also in the middle of his painful departure from TSR, which made the future use of his World of Greyhawk setting questionable. D&D needed a new “base” world.

TSR editor Jeff Grubb contacted Greenwood and asked exactly how much of the Realms had he actually created? Greenwood’s reply was, “lots.” Soon boxes were arriving at TSR HQ in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin by the score. Each box was packed full of notes, handwritten and typed, featuring information on hundreds of characters and cities, dozens of countries and countless new monsters, factions and magical items. Greenwood’s map of the main continent was divided across dozens of A4 sheets of paper which were painstakingly reassembled in the main TSR office, taking up almost every inch of free floor space. Greenwood’s map of the setting’s signature city, Waterdeep, was even larger and detailed and named almost every building. This was the Tolkien school of in-depth worldbuilding taken and expanded and applied to a continent several times the size of Middle-earth.

The slightly awed TSR bought the rights to the setting and began released it to the public in 1987. The first release was a novel, Darkwalker on Moonshae by Douglas Niles, followed by the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, or the “Big Grey Box” as it became infamously known. The Grey Box sold over 100,000 copies in short order, a staggering number for an RPG supplement. Ed Greenwood provided his own novel, Spellfire, and a few months later another book was published by a first-time novelist named R.A. “Bob” Salvatore. The Crystal Shard introduced the character Drizzt Do’Urden, a dark elven ranger seeking to atone for the sins of his entire race, and a fantasy publishing legend was born. To date, more than 30 million Drizzt novels have been sold by themselves.

The Realms grew and expanded. The continent of Kara-Tur, previously developed in 1985 for the Oriental Adventures sourcebook, was bolted to the eastern side of the Realms (with Greenwood’s blessing). The western continent of Maztica and the southern continent of Zakhara were explored in further boxed sets. Dozens of adventures and supplements explored the gods, power groups and races of the Realms in remarkable detail. In 1989 the Realms made the transition to D&D 2nd Edition through an epic campaign known as the Time of Troubles, or Avatar Wars, the first of many “Realms-shaking events” that unified a setting noted for its expanse and scope.

The setting expanded to a successful comics run and also a line of well-received video games, such as Curse of the Azure Bonds. However, it was the epic dungeon-crawler Eye of the Beholder (1991) that became a major crossover hit with general gamers and expanded the audience even further.

D&D and the Realms ran into a major problem with the collapse of TSR in 1997, during which time it was briefly possible that both would disappear altogether. However, Wizards of the Coast stepped in and bought both the game and the setting. This led to a creative renaissance for the setting, spearheaded by the hugely popular video game Baldur’s Gate (1998), the first RPG to be released by BioWare. D&D 3rd Edition arrived in 2000 and was followed by the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book in 2001, one of the most handsome RPG books ever published. Over the next seven years the Realms continued to peak in popularity, with more video games such as Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights contributing to its success.

In 2008 D&D launched its 4th edition, but the surprising decision was made to effectively destroy the Realms, turning it into a kind of post-apocalyptic, high-concept setting. The decision was vehemently rejected by the overwhelming majority of Realms fans; sales of the 4th Edition D&D and Forgotten Realms material were disappointing and the setting spent several years in the doldrums until 2014, when Wizards of the Coast launched D&D 5th Edition. A streamlined, back-to-basics version of the game, it proved an immediate, huge hit. Even more notable was that, for the very first time, the Forgotten Realms was now the default setting for the D&D game. The new setting rolled back most of the disastrous changes from 4th Edition and restored some faith and popularity in the setting.

There are still some worlds left unconquered. A Forgotten Realms movie is in development for release in 2021 or 2022, and Larian Studios are working to relaunch the video game line with the eagerly-awaited Baldur’s Gate III. After a short hiatus, the novel line has been relaunched by R.A. Salvatore with a new run of Drizzt books, although there seem to be no plans for more material at the moment. And, watching over it all, remains Ed Greenwood, who still insists he has far more unpublished notes and setting material than has ever been seen formal print. On that basis, the Realms will be around for a long time to come.

Ed Greenwood FR Map 2

Ed Greenwood’s original, hand-drawn map of the Forgotten Realms.

Mapping the Realms

Greenwood’s original map of the Realms focused on the continent of Faerûn, extending west to the island of Evermeet; south to the jungles of Chult and the island of Nimbral beyond; east to Semphar and the Horse Plains; and north to the towering Spine of the World mountain range and the Endless Ice Sea beyond. He had little notion of what lay elsewhere in the world, except for a huge island chain to the north-west called Anchôromé.

Other writers and editors soon expanded the setting. The 1985 Oriental Adventures book by Dave “Zeb” Cook had detailed an Asia-like land called Kara-Tur. This was retconned (and shrunk in the process) into the eastern half of the continent in the Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms boxed set (1988). In 1990 the Horde boxed set explored the Tuigan plains which linked the two subcontinents. In 1991, the Maztica Campaign Set added a new continent far to the west of Faerûn. In 1992 the Al-Qadim sub-setting was launched, detailing the lands of Zakhara to the south of Faerûn.

Through all of these boxed sets, adventures and campaign guides, maps were a constant feature. Not just maps of the continents and landmasses, but maps of individual countries, cities, streets and even individual buildings. The City System (1988) set contains a colossal map of Waterdeep which is too big to fit inside most average-sized homes, and names virtually every building in the city. The Forgotten Realms is almost certainly the most heavily-mapped fantasy world in existence, with literally thousands of maps existing of its various locations.

Despite that, a full, canonical world map of the entire planet of Abeir-toril had to wait until the release of the Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas (1999) on CD-ROM. The atlas featured almost every single map from every single Realms product ever released plus lots of new ones, and also a complete world map which added multiple new continents to the planet. Ed Greenwood would later reveal some new information on these continents, but, twenty years later, they have still received scant development compared to the originals.

Forgotten Realms Large Map Political

The first-ever canonical world map of Toril, from the long out-of-print Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas (1999) by ProFantasy.

A New Map of Toril

My new map of Toril depicts the planet as it stood between the 2nd and 3rd Editions of the setting. When 3rd Edition setting was released in 2001, the map-makers chose to shrink the main continent of Faerûn to remove empty space in the south; given that Faerûn was never the biggest fantasy continent in the first place, sometimes straining credulity given how packed it was, this was unnecessary and was eventually reversed in 5th Edition.

4th Edition, much more controversially, blew up the continent in a magical catastrophe known as the Spellplague and completely reshaped it. Fortunately, most of these changes were promptly abandoned in 5th Edition, which restored the continent to its former glory.

To create this map, I used a base model from my twenty-year-old copy of the Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas (this also inspired some colour choices, particularly for the mountains) and information from canon sources and from some of the better fan maps out there. A more detailed map of Faerûn will – hopefully! – follow, although it will be considerable work.

globe (1)

Toril as seen from space.

The World of Abeir-toril

The world of the Forgotten Realms is an Earth-sized planet called Abeir-toril, “Cradle of Life” in Auld Wyrmish. Toril is the third of eight planets in its star system, and it possesses one large satellite, Selûne, and dozens of smaller satellites, asteroid-sized bodies called the Tears of Selûne.

Toril is divided between one very large continental landmass, almost big enough to qualify as a supercontinent, and three other continent-sized bodies. Five large island-continents and thousands of smaller continents are also known to exist.

The main continental landmass is divided into three lesser continents or subcontinents:

  • Faerûn is located in the west of this landmass, running from the Endless Ice Sea to the Great Sea and from the Trackless Sea to the Tuigan Plains (or Hordelands) in the east. Faerûn is the original and principle setting for the Forgotten Realms campaign and by far the area of the planet with the most development. Faerûn vaguely resembles Europe and the Near and Middle-East in the medieval period, with the landlocked Sea of Fallen Stars serving as a Mediterranean analogue.
  • Kara-Tur is located to the east of Faerûn and is the home of the mostly-defunct Oriental Adventures and Living Jungle sub-settings. It is an Asian-inspired land of vast empires, huge cities and adventure. Kara-Tur is the home of the largest nation on Toril, the Shou Lung Empire, and the tallest mountain range, the Yehimal, which is even taller than the Himalayas.
  • Zakhara, the Land of Fate, lies south of Faerûn and south-west of Kara-Tur. The home of the Al-Qadim sub-setting, it is a land of vast, boiling deserts and cities clustered around oases and bays. Zakhara is inspired by the mythology of Arabia. The largest single city on the planet, Golden Huzuz, can be found in Zakhara.

In addition, several other continents can be found elsewhere in the world:

  • Maztica, the True World, lies to the west of Faerûn across the Trackless Sea. It is inspired by Aztec and Mayan mythology and consists of jungles, volcanoes and deserts. North of Maztica lies a land of open plains more reminiscent of the American West, although this area has not been explored much in canon materials.
  • Katashaka lies to the south of Maztica and consists of steaming, hot jungles inhabited by various hostile lizardfolk. Katashaka seems to have been inspired by South America, but it has received relatively little development so far.
  • Ossë is a large landmass lying to the east of Kara-Tur. It is quite hot, sparsely-populated and has not yet been explored in detail in any canon materials. Based on the limited information available, it appears to be a supersized version of Australia.

There are numerous islands of note in the world, the most famous of which are Evermeet, the home of the elves located far across the Trackless Sea; the Moonshae Isles off the coast of Faerûn; Lantan, the land of engineers and tinkerers; Nimbral, the mysterious Sea-Haven; the islands of Anchôromé off the coast of Maztica; Wa and Kozakura off the coast of Kara-Tur; and the large island-continents of Myrmidune, Tabaxiland, Aurune and Braaklosia, about which relatively little has been revealed.

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A New Map of Westeros

As related previously, I’ve been planning to update my older Atlas of Ice and Fire maps focusing on Westeros and Essos, which are looking a bit low-res and long in the tooth ese days. To start with, I’ve been creating a new map of the entire known world. Although lots of work remains to be done on that, I have (more or less) completed the portion containing Westeros, which is now available to view below.

Westeros

The continent of Westeros. Please click for a (much) larger version.

There is some work still to be done. I need to clean up some of the name placements. I also still need to find a better way of depicting mountains and especially hills, which I realised a bit late in the day on this map look more like valleys or canyons.

Still, this is a vast improvement over my old maps and work continues to improve the material.

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Stellar Cartography: Homeworld

The Homeworld franchise is one of the greatest and most atmospheric strategy video game series of all time. Chronicling the exodus of an entire civilisation across a distant galaxy, it tells the story of that civilisation’s fall, rise and triumph against overwhelming odds. The series has slowly unfolded over twenty years, with a fifth title now in the works, for release in 2022.

Homeworld

A map of the Homeworld galaxy. Please click for a larger version.

The Homeworld saga began on 28 September, 1999 with the release of Homeworld, the first game by the Canadian developers at Relic Entertainment. The first space-based, fully 3D real-time strategy game, it was a huge success. It was followed by a stand-alone expansion, Homeworld: Cataclysm (2000) from Barking Dog Studios, and then a full sequel from the original development team, Homeworld 2 (2003). Due to rights complications and Relic being bought by a different publisher, THQ (and later Sega), the Homeworld series was seemingly abandoned.

In 2010 several ex-veterans of Relic set up a new company, Blackbird Interactive, and began development on Hardware: Shipbreakers, a “spiritual prequel” to Homeworld focusing on ground combat. In 2015 THQ collapsed and the Homeworld IP rights were picked up by Gearbox Software. They contacted Blackbird with two aims, the first being an ambitious next-generation remaster of Homeworld and Homeworld 2, the second being converting Hardware into a proper prequel to the original game. This resulted in Homeworld Remastered (2015) and Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (2016), both reasonably successful. In August 2019, Gearbox and Blackbird confirmed they were now working on a full, proper new game in the series: Homeworld 3, due for release in late 2022.

 

The Saga

The Homeworld saga begins on the desert planet of Kharak, located near the outermost fringes of its galaxy. A race of humanoids known as the Kushan dwell on Kharak. Divided into extended family/clan groups known as kiith, the Kushan people developed high technology but at the cost of depleting their hot planet’s resources. Kharak was only barely habitable and it was becoming clear that it was effectively dying, dooming the Kushan people to extinction (and causing scientific confusion as the planet did not appear capable of allowing intelligent life to develop in the first place). One hope was that the Kushan people might be able to colonise space. This caused a religious schism, with hardline followers of the god Sajuuk pointing to an ancient, religious proscription against travelling into the void on the pain of armageddon.

During a routine sensor sweep of the planet, a satellite launched into space by the technologically advanced Northern Coalition (a cluster of kiith living in more clement conditions closer to the northern polar seas) detected an anomaly in the Great Banded Desert, a huge metallic object buried under the sand. Further attempts to study the anomaly from space were thwarted by weather conditions, so the Alliance dispatched an advanced land-carrier, the Kapisi to investigate. This meant violating the territory of Kiith Gaalsien, a powerful nomadic tribe and the most fervent followers of Sajuuk. They also had access to sophisticated technology, despite lacking the resources of the Coalition. A military confrontation turned into a long-running battle. Finally, the Kapisi and her crew defeated the Gaalsien and reached the “primary anomaly,” discovering it to be a vast spacecraft. Investigation of the wreck, dubbed the Khar-Toba, confirmed it was a generation ship which had carried the distant ancestors of the kiith from…somewhere else. On a plinth hidden deep inside the ship was discovered an object dubbed the Guidestone, a galactic map pointing to a star and planet named Hiigara: the homeworld. More startling was the discovery of a technological artefact that defied understanding, a Hyperspace Core which could tear open holes in the fabric of reality and allow ships to cross thousands of light-years in the blink of an eye.

With Kharak’s resources running low, all efforts were thrown into the construction of a huge starship, the Mothership, which would guide some 600,000 colonists and settlers back to the Homeworld and establish a beachhead for a larger-scale evacuation. Once the Mothership was completed, the Hyperspace Core was installed and activated. The Mothership made a test jump to the fringes of the Kharak system. During the Mothership’s absence, an alien fleet of unknown origin attacked and destroyed Kharak with a weapon that set fire to the planet’s atmosphere, incinerating it. Hundreds of millions of people were killed. The returning Mothership was able to complete the evacuation of the cryo-frozen colonists and then began its long, desperate flight across the galaxy.

During the course of this journey, the Kushan made contact with the Bentusi, the most powerful race in the galaxy and guardians of the galactic trade routes. The Bentusi informed the Kushan that their ancient ancestors had commanded a vast galactic empire, but had fallen to tyranny and despotism. The Taiidan had ovethrown the Hiigarans and nearly destroyed them, but a late call for mercy had seen them exile the survivors to Kharak some 3,000 years earlier. The activation of the Hyperspace Core alerted the nearest Taiidan garrison, which destroyed Kharak in retaliation. The Kushan Mothership gained great support from the other races of the Galactic Council, especially as the Taiidan Empire had become even more brutal, corrupt and genocidal than the Hiigarans ever had been before. In a final battle over Hiigara itself, the Mothership and its fleet, augmented by defectors from the Taiidan military, obliterated the flagship of the Emperor and collapsed the Empire. The Kushan reoccupied Hiigara and a new, democratic Taiidan Republic arose from the ashes of the Empire.

Fifteen years later, a powerful, extragalactic threat was unwittingly unleashed by Kiith Somtaaw. This alien threat, a cybernetic force known as “the Beast,” caused tremendous damage and loss of life until an alliance of Hiigaran, Bentusi and Taiidan forces was able to destroy it once and for all.

One hundred years after the Beast War, a new conflict erupted. Makaan, warlord of the Vaygr, united the Vaygr clans into a single fleet and declared himself the Sajuuk-Khar, the prophecised leader who would unite the Three Great Hyperspace Cores. Makaan had found the Third Core abandoned in the far reaches of the galaxy. The Hiigarans possessed the Second. The First was in the possession of the Bentusi. To secure the Second Core, Makaan invaded Hiigaran space. However, forewarned of the threat, the Hiigarans had built a new, more powerful Mothership, the Pride of Hiigara, and transferred the Second Core to it. With the Hiigaran system under siege, the Pride of Hiigara led a fleet in crossing the galaxy in search of help. The Bentusi eventually gave the First Core to the Pride, after which they seized the Third Core from Makaan’s fleet in open battle. This allowed them to retrieve Sajuuk, now revealed to be an ancient, powerful starship created (at least) tens of thousands of years earlier by the enigmatic Progenitors. The Sajuuk destroyed the Vaygr forces besieging Hiigara, securing the planet once and for all.

After the victory, the Sajuuk and the unified power of the Three Cores was able to open the Eye of Aarran, a powerful hyperspace portal leading to a vast network of gates. These gates opened up the galaxy to all races, allowing them to trade and travel much faster than ever before and beginning a new golden age of peace and discovery.

Or so it was hoped…

 

Mapping the Homeworld Saga

The Homeworld Saga takes place in the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51a, located approximately 23 million light-years from Earth. It is unknown what time period the Saga takes place in, or if it has any connection at all to our galaxy; some fans theorise the Progenitors may be humans from Earth in the far future, or that our descendants colonise the galaxy, hence the human-like appearance of the Hiigaran, Taiidan and Vaygr peoples.

Maps of the original Mothership’s journey across the galaxy are featured heavily in the original game. Rough maps and working materials were used in the development of Homeworld 2 and made public by Relic many years later, allowing other locations to be pinned down.

In 2019, as part of the Fig Campaign for the development of Homeworld 3, Blackbird and Gearbox released a canonical map (albeit light on details) of the Homeworld galaxy.

A NASA stock image of the Whirlpool Galaxy (reversed to match the maps in the games) was used to provide the base image.

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