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
- dozens of islands, and mountains, hundreds of rivers and roads
- ...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 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 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.