More Mappy Goodness – The City of Sharakhai

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A few weeks back, I put up a post that dug into the details around the creation of the regional map for Sharakhai and the desert that surrounds it. The city map just came in for Sharakhai itself, and I thought I’d do the same.

In the regional map, I was starting with an export from the mapping program, Fractal Terrains. I tried to do something similar with the city using Campaign Cartographer, but frankly, I found the program itself too onerous and decided to go for a hand-drawn map instead. Were I going to try to make it look professional on my own, I might have sucked it up and tried to finish it in a mapping program, but I knew I could never do as well as the map artist, Maxime Plasse, could to, so I figured doing it by hand was fine for that purpose.

Here’s what I came up with for the initial pass.

Sharakhai Hand Drawn Map

Not bad for a D&D campaign or some such, but certainly it could use a bit, ahem, refinement. Max and I chatted for a while about it, and then he set to work. The first image he came up with was just to lay out the boundaries of the city, the path of the river, and so on.

Sharakhai City river

I see more than a few faces in there, don’t you? Creative folks could have fun with that… *waits* *stares at internet* No? No one?

Anyway, Max and I played around with this a bit before moving on. Experienced cartographers will note an issue with the later maps, namely that a river is running through a shallow plateau. There’s a bit of hand-waving going on to have the river where it is (running through the center of Sharakhai), but in the end, that’s where it runs. Call it an act of the elder gods, a bit of uplift in that area after the river’s bed had already dug down, or what have you. Sharakhai is surrounded on all sides by a sea of sand with the bed of a river running along it at certain times of the year.

So, now it was on to laying the neighborhood and streets. Here’s the first pass Max came up with for that.

Sharakhai City2

A really great start that doesn’t get too detailed. That’s a tricky thing about city maps. You can’t get too in-depth or you run the risk of making it look jumbled, or worse, an incomprehensible mess. And that was part of the issue we had as we started to layer on neighborhood names and key locations.

After hashing out what could go on the map and what could go on a legend, we came up with this:


Pretty impressive, says I. This had laid the groundwork for the color version, where we have more freedom. You’ll note in the greyscale version above, there are no clear delineations for the neighborhoods. We’d toyed with shading and using dotted lines and the like, but because this was going to be pretty small in ebook form and the mass-market paperback versions, we thought it best to keep it as simple as was reasonable. In the color version, though, we thought adding different colors for the neighborhoods would work well.

Here’s what we came up with for the final on the color version:

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I have a lot of the city to play with as well. Not everything is mapped out at this point, but I’ll continue to fill those in as time goes on and I explore more of the city through the books. For now, let’s all just bask in the glory of mappy goodness, shall we?

** yes, we shall **

Thanks to Maxime Plasse for his excellent work. Seek him out at to see more of his great work.


  1. Bruce Boughner

    March 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks Brad..I put a copay into my Pinterest RPG board

    • Brad

      March 21, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Cool! I hope people dig it.

  2. Paul Weimer

    March 22, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Hawt. I like it a lot, and I like how you detailed the progress of the map.

    • Brad

      March 22, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks! And yeah, it’s definitely fun to share a bit from behind the scenes.