Up until Balticon I’ve been avoiding drawing geomorphs. As I’ve said before, my previous attempts have been generally uninspiring, and they’ve gone into the recycle bin (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively). So what made me decide to do two dozen while at Balticon?
There are a couple of reasons.
1. I wanted to do something with my hands while sitting in panels. While they can be interesting, they don’t always keep my complete and undivided attention. Virginia addresses this by knitting. Now I’ve tried knitting, and the results are less than pretty. Rabid weasel in a sweater box was I believe the best description of my attempt, and while I could devote the time to learning the skill, I’ve decided that I have enough hobbies, and don’t need a new one, plus I would have to have my own yarn stash, and where would we put it?!?
I can’t really paint minis, as there isn’t the space or even the surface to do it. Model and terrain making is right out for the same reasons. Writing uses too many of the same parts of the brain that I use to listen with, and that brought me to map drawing. All I need is a pen or pencil and a piece (or pad) of paper (graph paper ideally).
Ok, so I’m going to map. What to map?
2. I can’t really work on my megadungeon. There are things I have planned that will require access to my binder, and more concentration than I want to devote to it. I could work on some random dungeon, but when I tried that I could feel myself thinking about the megadungeon. I needed some form, some structure, maybe a goal... The first thing I thought of, when I thought about structure, was geomorphs.
Seeing as I was just planning on keeping my hands busy, this seemed like a good solution. I opened up my notebook, and started marking out 10x10 grids. Once i had them ready, I started drawing. I found that I could work on geomorphs and listen to the panelists, so my goal was accomplished!
Now that I’ve done these geomorphs I do have a few thoughts.
1. They’re fun! Having the limited structure of 100 squares really helped me get to it and get mapping. I didn’t spend much time dithering or worrying about making a bad or boring geomorph. That isn’t to say that I didn’t. There are a bunch that I’m perfectly willing to admit are completely boring! But because it’s only a single geomorph on a page of geomorphs, it didn’t really matter! I’d just wrap it up, and move on to the next one.
2. It’s harder than it looks. Making geomorphs is actually pretty easy. With 100 squares and 8 entrances each geomorph is a quick project. Making interesting geomorphs? That’s harder. Ok, sure, if every geomorph was interesting and cool with a neat gimmick they’d all lose their value as interesting. You actually need relatively boring spaces to make the interesting bits stand out. Finding the right balance? Again, hard.
3. It’s harder than they make it look. The gold standard of old school mapping has to go to Dyson and Stonewerks. I say this a lot, but believe me, I think it even more often. They have the skill and the tools to make their maps look awesome. My maps don’t look like theirs, and without some time and effort spent learning to emulate them, they never will.
And that’s OK! My maps look like... well... MY maps. I have my own style, and no it isn’t as refined, or as pretty. But I’m learning. I’m working at it. I look at these geomorphs, and I can see where I need to improve. It’s even more evident when I scan them in at a high resolution and see them blown up on the computer!
So what next? The Sunday geomorph series starts tomorrow, so there's that. But will there be more geomorphs? I don't know. It's certainly fun, and should future occasions arise where geomorphs would keep my hands busy... We'll all just have to wait and see. Either way, I do plan on working on my maps, and making them look better!
Also, just a quick note that this is my 400th post! Go me!