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Lining Up the Maps

by Thorfinn Tait


It has been well established that the hex maps are the main basis of our knowledge of Mystaran geography, and it's generally agreed that in most cases they trump other sources, such as regional and world maps. However, the job of lining up all the existing hex maps is much harder than it may at first appear to be. Over the years, many people have asked why I haven't produced this map or that one, and this is generally the answer to this question. The most problematic areas in this regard are thus the most asked-after maps: Norwold, the Great Waste, the Trident Bay area, Davania, and Skothar.

In this thread, I'm going to methodically work through the task of lining up all the maps, presenting the evidence bit by bit, and asking for input where necessary. I'm determined to work through all these problems and find the best solutions for each one at some point in the near future. This may well involve adopting solutions other cartographers have discovered, but it's important to work through the evidence before coming to any conclusions.

One little caveat: Please try to restrict discussions to the point under current discussion (or a previously discussed point). It's important to take things one step at a time and build up all the foundations before we start tackling the points of difficulty. I will present each topic with a new set of images, signalling the new points up for discussion. I will leave time for discussion of each area or issue to come to a head before advancing to a new topic. Naturally, feel free to post in a new thread over in the main Mystara board if you think of a topic that we haven't covered here yet.

Unless otherwise noted, all the images I post and link to in this thread are accurate replicas of the original maps, or excerpts of such replicas.

With that, I'd like to start things off by looking at the 72 mile per hex maps.

72 mile per hex maps

There were only four official maps at this scale, beginning in 1989 with the seminal Dawn of the Emperors poster map, which defined the whole area between Brun and Skothar. The importance of this scale is twofold: it shows areas that are not covered on any larger scale maps; and it sets out their relative locations. Detail-wise, unless it's the only scale available, in most cases it is too general to be of much use.

The last three maps came in the Poor Wizard's Almanacs, I in 1992, II in 1993 and III in 1994. All show the post-Wrath of the Immortals world, with just remnants of Alphatia. All three maps also overlap with the original Dawn of the Emperors maps and each other.

Here are the maps:

Before we move on into the larger scales (24 and 8 miles per hex), let's examine these maps, compare them, and see what we can find. We're looking for any and all kinds of observations, inconsistencies, problems, etc.

Here's another map to help things along, showing just the coastlines. The colours I've used don't make it all that obvious which map is which, but for the sake of comparison they should be okay.

Generally speaking, the coastlines from all four maps have a very high degree of similarity. You will likely have to download the file at the original resolution and zoom in to find the problems. I've found three main areas so far.

The first is Davania. Dawn of the Emperors and Poor Wizard's Almanac II present starkly different coastlines for the southern continent. The Almanac map moves the Thyatian Hinterlands to the east, retaining the same general geography but displacing it. Obviously the Almanac shows a lot more of the area, but which source is more correct will take some more comparisons with other scales of hex maps, and the world maps.

The second is Norwold. It's not a major issue, but the size of the Isle of Dogs was significantly increased in the Almanac map.

The third is Minaea. Part of the coastline is missed out entirely on the first Almanac map, and there are some terrain differences when comparing the hex maps, too. But Dawn of the Emperors and the third Almanac map fit together very well.

Edit: I found another minor one - the third Almanac misses out the southern edge of Qeodhar and Whaler's Island.

I've been working on the Master Set map, comparing it with the 72 mile per hex maps. Here are three different ways of matching them up:

Comparison of coastlines from 72 mile per hex maps with overlaid Master Set world map coastlines in black. The fit is centred on the Isle of Dawn. The general coastlines are remarkably similar, but the fit between the maps is not very good.

Comparison of coastlines from 72 mile per hex maps with overlaid Master Set world map coastlines in red. The fit is centred on the Isle of Dawn, with the same scaling as the first version, but with individual landmasses shifted to better fit the 72 mile per hex maps. Such nudging of the landmasses is likely to be necessary to bring everything into line with the hex maps - and indeed to make the hex maps match up with each other. (More of this when we start to delve into the larger scale hex maps.)

Comparison of coastlines from 72 mile per hex maps with overlaid Master Set world map coastlines in yellow. The fit is centred on the Isle of Dawn, again with the same scaling, then the whole Master Set map rotated to better fit the 72 mile per hex map. This results in a better fit especially for Skothar and Bellissaria, as well as the Serpent Peninsula; less so for Norwold, and of course spinning the whole map has other repercussions, too.

Unfortunately, all of these are somewhat arbitrary; there is no 100% accurate way to match up these maps. In the end it will have to be done by sight. Obviously this means that there is a lot of room for tweaking - none of these comparisons are likely to be the final answer just yet.

Discussion of the 72 mile per hex maps seems to have come to a conclusion. To sum up, the maps generally fit together very well, with just a couple of problem areas; of those, only Davania is a really major issue, and we have concluded that we need more sources to solve the problem. In keeping with the rules of the thread - to only discuss things that have been explicitly put on the table as evidence - we'll leave it for now, and come back to deal with it later when we have brought in the necessary sources.

We also touched on the issue of the world map and lining it up with 72 mile per hex maps. The general consensus is that some changes will need to be made to the world map to fit the hex-mapped area into it, although we have yet to agree on how to make the necessary changes. We'll come back to this too at a later date, because really it's the last part of the puzzle once all the problems with the hex maps have been resolved.

For future reference:

Extant Issues & Things To Do

24 mile per hex Known World maps

Moving on, next I'd like to take a look at the sources for the heart of the Mystara setting, the Known World. For now, let's limit our discussions to the 24 mile per hex maps; more detailed maps will be introduced later.

There were a total of seven versions of the Known World map, beginning in 1981 with the original map in X1, and finishing with the regional map from 1994's Kingdom of Karameikos boxed set. I have remade the first six of these, so for now the 1994 map is not here for reference.

Note that both X1 maps, the Expert Set map, and the Cyclopedia map were all originally in black and white; I present them here in colourised versions, but I also have black and white versions of most of them at the Atlas wiki.

Also note that we are primarily concentrating on the AC 1000 setting; as such, the Wrath of the Immortals map here is my AC 1004 restored-Alfheim version rather than the published AC 1010 map. Again, the AC1010 version is on the Atlas wiki if you need to refer to it. (Alfheim and the Great Crater are the only major differences between the maps.)

Again, I'd like to begin by comparing the coastlines.

In general they are remarkably similar, although there are some minor localised problems. The big exception to this is Wrath of the Immortals, which takes a large strip of land off the coast of Ylaruam and the Northern Reaches.

Areas of interest include Ostland and the Vestland/Soderfjord fjords, parts of which were obscured on the original maps and thus exist in multiple versions. The fjords and their connecting rivers in particular deserve a close look, because I'm going to propose a fix later on when we get to the 8 mile per hex Northern Reaches map. All of these problems will be more obvious if you take a look at the black and white versions of the maps.

With the exceptions of the Heldann/Norwold coast and the Thanegioth Archipelago, all of these areas have of course been mapped at 8 miles per hex, so the solution to pretty much any problems with these maps will obviously be to use the more detailed map as the primary source. So for now let's focus on finding interesting issues within these maps.

Later on I will post a comparison with 72 mile per hex coastlines also shown.

Atruaghin Plateau

The plateau appears in unbroken form for the first time in X10's map. It was repeated in Wrath of the Immortals in a similar shape and size, although with a slightly offset location. The Champions of Mystara Great Waste map version of the plateau is almost identical to the Wrath version. This is an important issue which bears strongly on the next topic...

Let's bring in some more 24 mile per hex maps to discuss the next issue.

Sind and the Known World/Great Waste border

This is a very problematic area. It would seem that there were multiple ways to link up the Known World maps with the adjacent Great Waste area. Repeating terrain patterns and the fact that the Atruaghin Plateau was split across the maps meant that there was no single clear link-up. To make things worse, official maps of the area appear to have adopted different positions on the subject, so that there are two versions of Sind: X4/X10 Sind from the first mapping era, and Wrath of the Immortals/Champions of Mystara Sind from the second era of mapping. The change between these two involved the whole of Sind being moved one hex southwest, including Sayr Ulan, Pramayama, the Asanda River, and the Salt Swamp. This change becomes evident if you line up the X4 and Champions maps using the Black Mountains on the left side of each map. They match up pretty precisely, but leave Sind one hex out of sync.

In any case, the official position is clear; Champions is the newer, more authoritative source, and it presents more of the area in question, providing unambiguous joins with the Known World and Serpent Peninsula. For whatever reason, it seems we're stuck with this inconsistency between the old and new maps.

Going back to the Known World maps...

Borders and Terrain

There are numerous differences in borders and terrain, but since most of these areas have 8 mile per hex maps which supersede these maps anyway, let's confine our discussion to areas without 8 mile per hex maps.

The Thanegioth Archipelago is another area which stays relatively unchanged between its appearances in X1 (1981), X1 (1983) and the Cyclopedia (1990). The coastlines of the islands are not identical, but close enough to not matter too much. The Isle of Dread itself has a better source in the large scale map from X1, of which more much later.

The Adri Varma Plateau is comparatively consistent between all the maps. The main sources for its precise location and terrain are the later Wrath and Champions maps. The promontory east of Lake Hast appeared for the first time in Wrath, and was adopted thereafter. Terrain-wise, too, the sources are mostly consistent, with just a couple of hexes different. The only major inconsistency is with X11's version, which displaces the eastern ridge a whole hex to the east.

This brings us to the next topic, which will require another map...

Wendar, Denagoth and Heldann

These areas are depicted mostly only at 24 miles per hex. Only the southern reaches of Wendar and Heldann appear at the 8 mile per hex scale, and for the most part they are not much detailed at that scale. (The exception being a small part of the southeastern coast of Heldann, which appeared fully developed on TM2.) The good news is that the terrain is mostly highly compatible; forested hills, heavy forests, badlands and other terrain types not yet in use at the time X11's map was made are introduced in the Wrath of the Immortals map, but in such a way as to enhance X11's map rather than conflict with it.

The main problematic areas are the borders: X11 gives all the borders to Denagoth, while Wrath assigns a full line of mountain hexes to Wendar in the west and Heldann in the east, significantly shrinking Denagoth's hold of the Mengul Mountains. The Poor Wizard's Almanac non-hex maps appear to go with X11's version. Of course, such mountain borders are likely polite fictions, so it's not a big issue, but still a decision must be made which version is correct in order to produce a new 8 mile per hex map of the area. Thus far, I have gone with the original X11 borders, which means both Wendar and Heldann are almost mountainless. Any thoughts on this issue?

Let's leave discussion of the link-up with Norwold for the moment, as it most definitely deserves our full attention as a topic of its own.

The Isle of Dawn, Alphatia, the Alatian Islands, Ochalea and the Pearl Islands

As we will soon see when I introduce the 8 mile per hex maps of the area, the edge of the Isle of Dawn should be present on most of the Known World maps just east of Ostland. TM2 provides the precise link-up. More on this topic later.

So, this issue aside, the links between the Known World and the various islands of the Alphatian Sea area are set out pretty unambiguously in Dawn of the Emperors, with the Isle of Dawn being the key reference point. All three of the other maps overlap the Isle of Dawn map significantly, making this an easy cut and paste job.

The Isle of Dawn actually should appear on the Alphatia map in the southwest corner. The version of Alphatia on the Isle of Dawn map provides the correct placement, so this is an easy fix.

That's enough to be going on with for now, I think. Please post any problems you spot (or are already aware of) in regards to all the topics introduced so far. I will hold off on introducing the next topics to give the discussion time to mature first. After that, we will move on to the trickier topics of Hule and the Savage Coast, the Serpent Peninsula (which though not tricky by itself also includes a section of Davania), and Norwold. (As always, please be patient and hold off discussion of those areas for now.)

I'm trying to get back into thinking about this topic. This thread seems to have gone off track, so in an attempt to get it back on, here's a summary of what we have:

Important: Thus far, only 72 and 24 mile per hex maps are on the table for discussion.


Things to Do

Extant Issues

So what's next? I want to tackle the following areas, likely in this order: Serpent Peninsula, Gulf of Hule, Savage Coast, Orc's Head Peninsula, and Arm of the Immortals. As always, I'll post links to those maps to start off discussions for each topic. There are some big issues among this group of maps that need to be dealt with.

In the meantime, if you have any comments on what we've discussed so far, or this summary I have just posted, feel free to jump in.