Thoughts about Bellissarian maps



Jul 26, 2006 10:24:34
Some thoughts about Bellissarian cartography.

NOTE ABOUT MAPS: It is possible that the website in which I put my maps exceeds its data transfer capabilities, thus not showing the maps in this thread. You can try again later, otherwise you can download here the zipped version of all the maps (total: 1.6Mb):

The official maps of Bellissaria (DotE, PWAI, PWAIII, WotI) show the island in a very large scale (72 miles/Hex, with the exception of WotI's map which shows about 1/3 of the island in a 48 miles/Hex scale)

I made a conversion in a 24 miles/Hex in a very simple way, basically by superposing a suitably-scaled hexed grid on the 72-48 miles/hex maps, and then filling the smaller hexes depending on the terrain type on the larger scale maps. The new maps show very large stretches of identical, uniform terrains (especially plains and hills) that I "spiced" up a little by adding every bit of information about Bellissaria I was able to find in DotE and PWAs manuals.

The resulting full map of Bellissaria is this:


The main modifications to the "standard" map of Bellissaria are essentially these ones:

1) I added a new terrain tile: the "poor grazing land" of GAZ12 (Ethengar) with which I filled most of the plains in the central region of the island. This is because the DotE set says that "Central Bellissaria, which is not well-watered, is pretty arid, but doesn't quite constitute desert — it's just scrub country. The rest of the island is well-irrigated."

2) I added some villages in the most logical places (I did not give names to them). "Logical" places include the intersection of two major roads, and most places where a road makes a turn without any apparent reason. In the latter case I supposed that the road proceeds straightly until it reaches a village, and then it departs from the village toward another direction.

In the following you will find separate maps for each kingdom (in alphabetical order) and a brief summary of the modifications I added. I tried to stay as much canonical as possible.


Jul 26, 2006 10:25:24



I turned vast stretches of plains into poor grazing lands, to take in account for PWAI info about (not very lucky) sheep and goat farming activities. In particular, I converted the plains just north of the (canonical) steppes, in order to explain why the road connecting Dawnrim and Lagrius was built on the steppes instead of the plains (if the plains are mostly arid, the steppes become a preferential choice for road and village-building).


Jul 26, 2006 10:26:02



This kingdom is crossed by a large network of roads, so it has a large number of villages.
I added a couple more villages at the mouths of the rivers E and W of the capital, due to the fact that PWAI says that there are many deep water harbor and naval wharfs along the coast.
The same PWAI says that the plains of Horken are a mix of grasslands and woods, so I added some sparse hexes of forest along the rivers. Their number is quite small and it doesn't modify the hex terrain type in the larger scale (72 miles/hex) maps.
I added a road leading south from Wymar to South Harbor in the kingdom of Surshield. The road seems logical, due to the fact that Horken is a trading kingdom (PWAI) and that the Surkarian Range between the two cities is particularly narrow.


Jul 26, 2006 10:26:52



I changed some plains with the poor grazing lands, connecting them to the same terrain hexes of Dawnrim (see), basically for the same reason I explained in Dawnrim entry (the road that cross the steppes instead of the plains).
PWAIII says that Lagrius doesn't have a true access from the sea. So I supposed that the coastline is very steep, preventing the building of seaport and major harbors. I added an escarpment also on the hills just east of the capital city. That's because PWAI says that Blueside city is protected by the lake on one side, and by a steep range of hills on the other side.
The river between Blueside and Princetown has maybe dug his way through the higher land, carving a canyon or a deep valley along its route.
I added a village at the end of the trade route that crosses the lake starting from Blueside city.


Jul 26, 2006 10:28:02



In the official maps this kingdom has absolutely no roads. I added a road between Alchemos and Cairnport because its really too useful to be ignored. It allows trade between the two cities avoiding to sail around the whole Meriander peninsula.
I did not add any other road, supposing that the ruling class of wizards (Alchemos has a famous magical university) likes the kingdom to be mostly wilderness.
I added some forest hexes and I changed to forested hills some hills in the south, according to PWAI info about wide forests in the south..


Jul 26, 2006 10:29:29



I added some villages along the three roads departing from Aaslin. As a result, the NE and the south regions of the kingdoms appear to be quite civilized. The presence of some villages and other settlements in the NE part of the kingdom is also stated in PWAI.
We may imagine that the regions far from the roads are mostly wilderness, in order to justify the very small population of this huge kingdom. The situation may be similar to that of an Alphatian "far west" with "colonists" mostly settled along the major penetration routes in a wild area.
Notice that the two nearest Alphatian kingdoms (Eadrin and Randel) are not particularly overpopulated, nor they are interested in strong emigration policies (Eadrin is a relatively poor kingdom which suffers the competition of nearby Arogansa, while Randel is a militaristic kingdom).


Jul 26, 2006 10:30:18



I added the road from South Harbor to Wymar in the kingdom of Horken (see). Notice that Surshield does not seem to have major roads in the E-W directions (distances are enormous, and the terrain is not very suitable for road building). The South Harbor-Wymar road is almost necessary, otherwise a merchant should have to sail around the long Spearpoint peninsula just to trade with the nearby kingdom of Horken.
I added the official village of Chernok (PWAIII), even if its position is not explicitly known. We just know from PWAIII that the village is relatively near to Spearpoint, and it is ransacked by Minaean pirates in AC1012. I placed Chrenok along the Spearpoint Channel coastline, near the intersection of two major sea trade routes.
I changed some hills with wooded hills in the southern coast of Surshield, considering that precipitations along the southern coastline should be more abundant than the northern side of the Surkarian Range.
About the mountains: notice that the DoTE calls "Surkarian Range" the long mountain chain between Spearpoint and Dubbo, while the PWAs maps call the same region with the name "The Surshield Wall". Instead of dropping one of these two names, I preferred to mantain the term "Surkarian Range" for the whole chain and to consider the term "Surshield Wall" as referred to a part of the range (possibly the highest or the steepest part of the Surkarian Range).


Jul 26, 2006 14:22:17
These maps are lovely. Nice work

Does that mean we get to name some villages?

And - can someone remind me - is there a need to adjust the population figures - there may be some discussion anbout this somewhere - but PWA3 gives an area of 1,295,215sq. miles and a total poulation of 457,000. (Compare heavily forested Karameikos - area 46,750 - poulation 432,000)

But these maps are lovely - did I say that?


Jul 26, 2006 14:43:06
These maps are lovely. Nice work

Does that mean we get to name some villages?

And - can someone remind me - is there a need to adjust the population figures - there may be some discussion anbout this somewhere - but PWA3 gives an area of 1,295,215sq. miles and a total poulation of 457,000. (Compare heavily forested Karameikos - area 46,750 - poulation 432,000)

But these maps are lovely - did I say that?

The PWAs have an annoying habit, for less-developed regions, of taking the stated population levels for capital city regions and making that the population of the entire kingdom. Compare the original DotE reference for Ochalea (75,000 people in and around Beitung, presumably a fifth to a tenth of the island's total population) to the PWA references (75,000 people in the entire kingdom).

So yeah, don't trust the PWA numbers that closely.


Jul 27, 2006 12:44:39
I've already told you on the Italian MMB, Zompa, but I repeat: GREAT WORK!

I'll change only same or all the villages into towns and/or cities. And of course the number of villages would be much larger in a 8-miles-per-hex map of Bellissaria. ;)

And - can someone remind me - is there a need to adjust the population figures - there may be some discussion anbout this somewhere - but PWA3 gives an area of 1,295,215sq. miles and a total poulation of 457,000. (Compare heavily forested Karameikos - area 46,750 - poulation 432,000)

As eldersphinx already said, same (if not all) the numbers of the PWAs (or some of the DotE indeed) are simply too silly to be considered serious. Time ago I recalculated the population of Ochalea on terrain-based pop. densities, and I found about three millions people inhabiting that far land.

Bellissaria, being relatively peaceful and sharing a mild climate, would have AT LEAST average population densities (even considering that the wizards who rule that continent don't like to have great and densely-populated cities). The population could include a number of other races (mostly rakasta IMHO) and nomadic tribes.

Also: BEWARE the square mileage indicated by the countries' entries in the PWAs; many of them are totally WRONG! Thyatis, for example, lacks the whole Hattias island and more!


Jul 27, 2006 14:29:03
Thanks for these maps again LoZompatore - they've really got me thinking about Bellissaria again.

So I broke out DoA. Description on page 64 (only) - some highlights:

  • uneventful histroy
  • closemouthed people
  • strict laws - except Surshiled which is an anarchy (players book p11 'by the kings will' - place of fugitives etc.)
  • Surshiled rangs footholds extend 'to within a few miles of the sea' except near Spearpoint
  • populations in villages kept below 500 'by mutual consent'
  • could still be an interesting place to adventure

Then to the PWA series -
1010 (p21)- area 1,295 215, pop 455,000 - few monsters
1011 (p18-19) - individual lands listed:
Dawnrim 255,900sq miles, pop 25,000, capital Aliquin pop 5000
Horken 103,258sq miles, pop 30,000 capital Horken pop 5000
Lagrius 244,677sq miles, pop 150,000 capital Blueside 15,000
Meriander 92,034sq miles, pop 100,000 capital Alcemos 15,000
Notrion 338,956sq miles, pop 50,000 capital Aaslin 10,000
Surshiled 260,390sq miles, pop 100,00 capital Spearpoint 30,000
1012 (p13-14) pretty much repeats this.

Which by my reckoning makes for around 2 pages of official information on this continent - unless there are any canon sources I've missed.

...unless you count Bruce Heard's Belissarian Econmics on the vaults, where the population went up to 9.2 million - with combined standing armies of c180,000 troops (compare PWA III - floating continet of Alphatia - area 1,968,134 - pop c5.1 million)

I checked the land areas and they seem reliable for Bellissaria.

So - population - c500,000 or c9million.

And - are villages over 500 'allowed'?


Jul 27, 2006 21:13:32
Great maps, LoZompatore! I've never used Bellissaria in a game before but it really has alot to play around with. Someone could go wild developing this corner of Mystara.


Jul 28, 2006 5:50:07
Tanks to all for the appreciation. Actually, the map is just one: the other are just selections :P

Happylarry wrote:

Which by my reckoning makes for around 2 pages of official information on this continent - unless there are any canon sources I've missed.

Actually, there are some more information that may be useful in better detailing Bellissaria.

From DotE:

1) Food:

The island is quite fertile and rich of food (possibly except in the central regions):

The huge island had rich soil, low-lying but pretty mountains, and vast plain

The rich farmlands of Alphatia and Bellissaria yield wheat and barley, corn, a wide variety of vegetables and fruits; the forests and pastures yield venison, beef, and mutton a-plenty (pork is not very popular).

Bellissaria is called Alphatia's Bread-Box, because so much food is grown here for the empire

Even considering a magical aid in raising crops (but it should happen only during emergencies, see below), the typical medieval ratio between farmers (food producers) and towners (food consumers) is 4:1 - 5:1 (the average real world ratio of modern times varies from 1:1 to 1:10).
If Bellissaria feeds merely the 15% of mainland Alphatian population (that has a total of at least 5.2 million of people, from TM1) then the inhabitants of Bellissaria should be at least 3.1 - 3.9 millions (not counting the hundred of thousands more that are needed to feed the Bellissarian urban population),

(By the way, the reduction of the population of mainland Alphatia in the Hollow World after WotI should also reflects the disappearance of food imports from Bellissaria. The mainland can no longer sustain the same population as before without this great food contribution from abroad).

As regards magical help in farming, the DotE is quite explicit (so I'd keep the ratio 4:1-5:1 explained above):

Magic could no longer feed a nation, so agriculture became important; now, farmers raised crops and were aided by, instead of supplanted by, the wizards

The Alphatian Empire has a very strong economy built on two factors: Cheap labor in agriculture (slaves and servants), and magical disaster relief. If, for instance, a drought threatens to destroy the year's wheat-crop in Bellissaria, the Grand Council mobilizes as many wizards as can be shaken free from their
interests, and uses magical powers to correct the problem. So the Empire has a very steady economy.

2) History:

Just a couple of info. The most interesting is the immigration from the Alatians some centuries ago (consider also that - from DotE IoD map - two of the four islands possess villages with Thothian names...)

The island's history follows that of mainland Alphatia, except that periods of decay and decadence are never so bad here—and periods of prosperity are never so good.

These large islands (the Alatians), at the southern end of Alphatia, were once lightly peopled by farmers. But a few hundred years ago, when Mylertendal's philosophy of beautification was reaching its height, the Emperor ordered that the islands be depopulated (its farmers moved to Bellissaria and elsewhere)

3) Cotton Trade and Thieves:

Except for food, Bellissaria exports also cotton. Cotton is used to make the kiharas, the traditional Alphatian dress, for the non noble upper class of the Aplhatian society. Again, this implies a whole cotton farming industry on Bellissaria.

Wealthier commoners (gentry and freeman level) wear clothing in much the same style . . . but Alphatian sumptuary laws declare that only aristocrats and higher classes may wear spider-silk in Alphatia (regardless of who wears it in the lands to which it's exported). So lower-class kiharas, though they may be just as brightly-dyed, extravagantly embroidered, and exquisitely tailored, are made of other materials, chiefly Bellissarian cotton.

A rough calculation: If a mainland Alphatian commoner every 20 (a mere 5% of the commoners, thus excluding the 20% of magic-using population - who dress in spider silk) is wealthy enough to buy a Bellissarian cotton kihara, and if just a single slave/farmer/trader is needed to collect, pack and send the required cotton for a single kihara (extrapolated from real data of the pre-industrial era) then the Bellissarian cotton industry needs at least 210.000 people.
The highest concentrations of cotton industries before the industruial revolution employed about a 15% of the working population (say it is the 60% of the total population), so Bellissaria should have a total population of at least 2.3 million people.
These numbers may be easily doubled, considering that gentry and freeman level people should be a more consistent fraction of the commoners population.

NOTE: if the Alphatian nobles dress in spider silk and Bellissarian cotton (I don't think so, but maybe at least a fraction of the less powerful magic-users may dress also in cotton kiharas), the numbers above must be multiplied by 5, thus giving a Bellissarian population of 11 million people.

About trading guilds and thieves guilds: notice the contradiction inside the DotE set (Bellissaria has thieves guilds or not?):

The empire has many trade guilds. On Alphatia and Bellissaria, they don't have much pull at all unless they are governed by magic users.
In more distant realms, they wield more power.

Remember that there is no Thieves' Guild in Alphatia or Bellissaria, but there are Guilds elsewhere in the Empire.

Because the use of ESP is so damaging to organized crime, there are no Thieves' Guilds in Alphatia. There are few in Bellissaria and the Isle of Dawn.


Just a single note to say that Bellissaria HAS villages/towns with a population higher than 500 people. From PWAIII:

In a surprise attack, the Seashield forces from Aquas emerge from their submersible galleys and march into the town of Bridgeport on Bellissaria's northwestern coast. Zandor's 2,300 troops outnumber Bridgeport's inhabitants by two to one. The town surrenders without any lives lost on either side.

Which means that Bridgeport population is about 1,150 people.

5)The Horken harbor:

From PWAs we know that Horken has the best shipyard of the whole island. here is a quote from PWAIII:

The Seashield ambassador to Horken pointed out that Zandor would need a new navy — and that Horken, with Bellissaria's best shipyards, could profit tremendously from their support of the Emperor.

King Villiun of Horken will provide troop transports.

It seems that the Horken capital harbor should be quite big. Moreover, from PWAI we know also that it is a deep water port. IIRC Heard wrote these data about a couple of port capacities for Bellissaria:

Alchemos: Port Class E (Small: 1000HP capacity) population 10,000 Magic Workers
Spearpoint: Port Class C (Large: 5000HP capacity) population 30,000

So, in comparison, Horken port should be at least a Class C or Class B (Very Large, 10000HP capacity). Given the fact that Horken's navy provides troop tranport, the dock size of the port should be Large (it may harbor ships with 180+ HP) and it obviously has a Deep (Class III) port clearance.
The presence of this quite big harbor should have an influence on Horken's capital population (maybe it should be raised up).
Notice that the capital city is not the only harbor of the kingdom of Horken (see PWAI). There may be at least another couple of smaller harbors (class D or E, both with a class III clearance) along the coast.

6) Miscellaneous:

The kingdom of Notrion has quite a good number of powerful mages, compared to its small population. From PWAIII:

The power struggle in Aaslin has deteriorated into aimless rioting as half a dozen mages and their supporters fight for control of the town and the kingdom.

The kingdom of Lagrius has large cavalry forces, with some regiments of combat mages mounted on riding horses. This is the only Bellissarian kingdom with this peculiarity.
PWAI war machine stats show 6 "banners" for the entire kingdom, with 310 knights each (150 of them are M1, 5 are M2, 1 is a M9, mounted on riding horses). Non magic user knights are fighters mounted on war horses.