Dragon Eye Atlas

The Vision

From Dragon Eye Atlas

The most detailed fantasy world ever created

The vision behind the Dragon Eye Atlas, which you are currently reading, is to create an entire, consistent, living and interconnected fantasy world at the highest level of detail.

Close your eyes an imagine that you are looking at the map of the world, as if from space. You can make out a continent, and you zoom in. As you come closer, mountains, rivers and forests become visible. You focus on a specific part of the continent and zoom down more. You are beginning to make out which rivers are wide and which ones are small. Roads are beginning to be visible, and towns and cities. Ships on the ocean indicate trade routes. You focus on one city, knowing that you could have picked any of them. Zooming in you see how it is sitting there, at the edge of a river maybe, with a bridge crossing the stream. The roads you saw come to the city gates, and the ocean trade routes to the port. You can now see the wall and its towers, and make out the shapes of buildings and roads. A large building near what seems to be the central square captures your attention for its unusual shape. You zoom in even more, and the name of that building appears, and it leads you to a wiki page with a detailed description of its purpose and history. From there you can browse to a description of the city, and the kingdom it is a part of. Those details about the queen capture your interest, and you see the web of intrigue and diplomacy and marriages she has arranged. It might influence that war you are now reading about, and what is this about an ancient battlefield nearby, or the hot springs in the mountains that the city dwellers as well as travellers frequent in the winter?

This Atlas will detail the entire world of Dragon Eye at a level that any game master of any fantasy game can immediately use to turn into a story. And never again will you be lost if your players decide to ignore all the hints and move straight past the adventure into the nearest town. That entire town will be prepared and ready, with businesses and politics, history and culture, temples and guild houses and plenty of adventurer hooks.

And if your adventurers have accomplished something astonishing, you can send it in and if it passes editorial control, those actions and their consequences will become a part of the world.

The Reality Check

This is a massive undertaking and "massive" is an understatement. And yet, I have created entire worlds before and populated them. My online game Might & Fealty has a map not unlike what I plan to create for Dragon Eye, except that both technology and my knowledge of it have advanced. There are two dozen realms and hundreds of towns. But the difference is that the world of Might & Fealty is a mix of player-generated and procedurally-generated content.

Auseka the (first) continent in this new project has

  • 17 realms
  • 15 different cultures
  • 7 religions
  • 451 towns and cities
  • over 2 million square kilometers of area - about twice the size of Europe or the USA
  • 1731 rivers
  • 371 overland roads
  • 39 sea trade routes
  • 73 points-of-interest (historic battlefields, volcanoes, etc.)
  • dozens of islands and mountains
  • also planned: around 100 dungeons
  • ...and a history spanning thousands of years.

Much of the rough outline has already been created, thanks to several procedural generators, some code I have written myself and manual work to complete and tune it. But the details do not exist yet, and simply writing a page about each town or city will be on the order of 200,000 words. That is about half of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. And that is just short descriptions of just the larger settlements.

So this project will be lasting for years. I am fine with that. It's not like it is the first long-term project I've run. For you as the reader it does mean that what you find here will never be complete. There will always be something else that could be added. Some more noble family, some small village, a wayside inn, ...

The project also will be developed in most detail in those parts that I explore with my own tabletop roleplaying groups.

The Method

The world of Dragon Eye is partially generated by procedural generators and then hand-tuned and fitted, and partially created entirely by hand.

25 years of tabletop roleplaying experience, computer RPG experience and building my own games (both digital games and tabletop games) has taught me where the strengths and weaknesses of those things are. Procedural generation (in case you wonder: That's a fancy term that basically means: Let the computer roll something up for you) is very good at giving a rough outline of something fast, when the details are not critical. The important details can then be tuned or added by hand.

But procedural generation does not and will not in the near future, give you the level of deeply, meaningfully interconnected people and places that a good author can create. Think of the layers upon layers of history and legend in The Lord of the Rings. Or the webs of intrigue, alliances, betrayl, betrothal and personal interests that J.R.R. Martin spun up for A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones). Or how everything, up to the swear words and metaphors used by people, is connected to the central theme of the angry earth in N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series.

These level of details will and must be added by hand, by a process of carefully crafting and some helpful rolls of the dice to add a sliver of unpredictable chaos into all of it.

The Freedom

The tools that I use and create for this project will be available to others. I am building modifications to several pieces of software, and putting them all together in the way needed for such a project, and I want others to profit from the approach and be able to use it to build their own worlds. So all the technology described on the Technology page can be in your hands if you want it and the page Your World will describe how to use it.

But Why ?

The Internet is full of generators for world, towns, inns, families, castles, cat names, pantheons, magic treasure and the colour of the bandit's shirt. Most of them are disconnected from each other, so while using them gives you fast answers, they are not connected with each other.

There are also impressive games based on procedural generation, such as Dwarf Fortress, which generates an entire world with history, people, everything. But you can't play your fantasy campaign on it, it is made specifically for the Dwarf Fortress game.

Dragon Eye is, like every good project, a scratch-your-own-itch effort. I created the Dragon Eye Fantasy Roleplaying Game (or, at the time of this writing, am still in the process of creating it) and it needed a game world. I know from other fantasy games just what a difference a well developed, detailed game world makes. How much more alive it feels and how much more depth it gives to the game. So I started writing it in text, and quickly found that it doesn't work. A wiki is the natural form for a game world description, because you need the links, the connections between things, and readers/players need to be able to search and browse.

And since I've been using both Mediawiki and GIS and online maps and databases for many, many years, I understood just how powerful these tools are and what is possible with them - the Dragon Eye Atlas. There is almost no limit to the amount of details a wiki can store, so there is no reason to stop halfway through.