Blog:The Scrivener's Diary

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The Scrivener's Diary is a blog by Huw Williams (User:Huwmanbeing). Registered users may post comments to the talk page.

The Remapped Island of Apple

28 June 2020

Admittedly, Donald Brown's The Lost Island of Apple is not the most complete or polished Eamon adventure. The enemies are few and repetitive, the setting is sparse, and the plot thin and undeveloped.

Brown's original map of the island.

And yet... I've always had a special fondness for The Lost Island of Apple ever since I first played it as a child some 35 years ago because it featured something remarkable and entirely unique in the context of Eamon: the ability to walk freely across a graphical map! I was quite taken by it when I first played it on my brother's Apple II, and I remember imagining what it might be like if I could peek past the pixelated veil of the computer screen and behold all the hidden details of this strange, dark island floating in a magenta sea.

That thought returned to me again a few weeks ago as I was learning to use a new art application on my tablet and wondering what a good project might be for me to cut my teeth on. Apple Island! I could have some fun expanding on Brown's map and perhaps finally reveal a bit of the complexity that I imagined was hiding behind the blocky '80s pixels of the original. I took up my pencil and set to work.

For those who want the blow-by-blow of the project that ensued, or who enjoy ramblings on speculative cartography, please read on; others feel free to skip to the end to see the final product.

Scale

My intrepid explorer.

The first thing I needed to figure out was the approximate size of the island. Though Brown didn't put a scale bar on his map, he did leave a clue in the introduction when he noted that "every movement you take lasts a third of a day;" I therefore dispatched to the island the ever-dependable Sam (pride of the Guild, hero of Evenhold) and counted the number of moves it took him to traverse it. The result was 28 moves (or 9⅓ days) to cross east-to-west, and 27 moves (9 days) north-to-south.

To convert these travel times to distances, I began by checking a variety of fitness and hiking websites, most of which agreed that a healthy, experienced hiker, stopping for breaks and meals, walking good trails in decent weather, and using relatively lightweight equipment might reasonably walk 20 miles in a day. Applied directly to Sam's travel times, this pace might suggest that the island is close to 200 miles wide, but there are quite a few factors that almost certainly cut his daily mileage:

  • While the 20-miles-a day-figure is the distance walked, it's not necessarily the straight "beeline" mileage from start point to end point. Unless Sam's path is perfectly straight, the beeline distance he covers will always be less than his walking distance.
  • The island is depicted as a wild and dangerous place where one wouldn't expect to find abundant paths or well-maintained roads, so for much of the time Sam is probably hacking through trackless wilderness.
  • A fair portion of the island is mountainous and necessarily slower to traverse.
  • Sam is hauling a sizable amount of food, multiple weapons, armor, and treasure.
  • He's often interrupted by the appearance of wild animals and sometimes-hostile strangers.
  • He isn't just crossing the land at top speed but seemingly searching as he goes, looking for relatively small features like cave entrances and water holes.
  • His pace must be one that's comfortable and sustainable over the weeks of travel necessary for him to reach all the key parts of the island.
The island to scale with southern Italy.

These factors introduce a considerable amount of variability and uncertainty, and no doubt cut the linear distance that even a fit individual like Sam might expect to cover in a day, possibly by quite a lot. Bearing all of this in mind, I settled on an average pace of about 10 miles a day, or 3⅓ miles per move — a respectable speed I think, given the rugged terrain and frequent distractions. Using this figure, I concluded that the island has a diameter of about 90 miles, and an area of perhaps 6,000 square miles, falling in size somewhere between the islands of Jamaica and Sardinia. Plenty of room for mountains, plains, castles, bears, dragons, and a bevy of panhandling hermits.

Geomorphology

Equipped with a sense of the island's scale, I next needed to work out the shape of the landscape. The only significant topographical feature Brown described was a set of mountains in the west/northwest, so I started with the basic idea of a sharply uplifted western range gradually subsiding into foothills and more open plains to the east and south. I fancied the western coast to be a lot like Norway's, jagged and pierced by innumerable fjords and rocky inlets, loomed over by sharp, snow-covered peaks. While drawing the coastline I was reminded of Slartibartfast from The Hitchhiker's Guide who rhapsodized about Norway's "lovely crinkley edges" and how fjords give a continent "a lovely baroque feel."

Another significant feature of Brown's island is the wide semi-circular bay to the east, which given its smoothly-arced boundary I interpreted as the edge of an ancient impact crater, and which I whimsically named The Bight. In keeping with the structure of most complex craters I added low hills around the rim and an island in the middle of the bay formed from the uplifted central peak (obscured in Brown's original by the compass rose). The plains outside the crater betray signs of fracturing, including narrow canyons and cenotes, and due to the crater's raised rim drain north or south to the sea.

The smaller southern bay I rimmed with wet lowlands, and the northern peninsula (a sharp rectangle in Brown's original) I softened into a more leaf-like shape, closer to that of the Apple logo which the island's coast is patterned after.

The colorful classic logo... or a biome map?

Biomes

When it came to laying out the island's biomes, I was on my own: neither the original map nor the in-game descriptions gave any clue to the kinds of environments I was making my long-suffering Sam hike through. Grassy, wind-swept steppes? Rank, steamy jungles? I wanted to ground my choices in something relevant, so I turned to the original Apple logo that had inspired Brown. Its rainbow stripes reminded me of the growing zone maps printed in the old Burpee Seed catalogs my mother used to browse, or the brightly colored bands of a Köppen climate map. Knowing that a 90-mile-wide island probably wouldn't have a terribly diverse range of climates, I applied the colors loosely, filling the northern portions of the island with forests to represent the logo's green top stripe, riddling the southern lowlands with lakes and streams after the logo's blue bottom stripe, and throwing in some golden steppes and ruddy canyon lands in the interior to represent the warm intervening colors.

Names and sites

With the setting established, it was time to bring a little life and flavor to the island by adding settlements, roads, buildings, labels, and other signs of civilization. Brown identified only five specific sites on his original map so I started with those:

  • The "crude Main Hall" near the center of the map. Though not shown in the adventure, it seemed reasonable to assume the existence of a settlement near the hall, particularly given the seemingly endless supplies of food available for purchase there. I gave it the name of Coopertown (a reference to Cupertino, site of Apple's HQ), a title that suggests a former trade in casks and barrel-making, though the town is now mostly agricultural and surrounded by crop fields and livestock pastures.
  • The Warlord's castle, which I named Castle Malus from the Latin word for apple.
  • The Temple of Pashia, on the edge of the island's southeastern steppes
  • The water hole near the bay
  • The mountain cave

These few sites left many miles of empty, boring space on the map and seemed insufficient for even a sparsely populated island, so here I felt it necessary to create a number of my own embellishments out of whole cloth — or very nearly so. Experienced Eamonauts will know that Brown kept his tongue pretty firmly in his cheek with most of his adventures, never shy to slip in a quirky, anachronistic reference or drop a groan-inducing pun (remember the Wand'ring Minstrel Eye from The Lair of the Minotaur?), so in the interests of retaining at least a little of his humorous sensibility I threw in a few references that Apple aficionados might spot.

  • The mountainous region I named the Mountains of Mem, with high northern and low southern ranges (HIMEM, LOMEM), drained in part by the River Cawl (CALL) and overlooked at the west by the island's highest point, Poak's Peak (POKE, PEEK). This latter I imagine was named for the intrepid Aldus Poak, a noted explorer and cartographer in the age of the wizard kings, and the first to chart the coast. Dragons are known to roost on the northern flanks of the High Mems.
  • I lined the edge of the Bight with scattered fishing villages, the largest and most central being the harbor town of Asquay (ASCII), the name a corruption of the earlier "East Quay". The names of the surrounding villages of Narth, Kestonbray, and Jenta don't refer to anything; I just liked the way they sounded. I also marked a couple of centuries-old ruined towns standing in the hills along the edge of the Bight; their nature and origins are unstudied but some at the Main Hall in Coopertown suggest they may be the remains of long-deserted Ervuolian or Lanstian outposts.
  • At the very center of the Bight I placed an unnamed islet, the nature of which is unknown even to the locals. It's shrouded by a perpetually swirling wall of clouds they call "the Wizard's Cloak" and protected by impassable ocean currents, powered for centuries by some unseen force within, for reasons yet unknown.
  • The only settlement of any significance on the southern coast is Sennis, a waterlogged community on Azure Bay surrounded by the saltwater marshes at the mouth of the River Brunning.
  • Other villages include Melbury, a castle town just south of the Warlord's fortress, and Giant's Brow, a village on the rocky ridge dividing the north and south plains.
  • The wild western coast has no towns to speak of but is purported to be frequented by pirates (both human and goblin) who shelter in the shadowy channels. Though ravens can be found throughout the island, the name "Raven Coast" is probably a corruption of "riven", referring to the fractured coastline.
  • Fairies inhabit the sunny grasslands of the southwest, where flowers and fungi grow in vast, arcane patterns to mark the magical intersections between Eamon and the realm of the fey.

Finishing touches

The five detailed insets were fun to make, though they took almost as long as the rest of the map. The water hole was a particular challenge since branches of the tunnel extend in every direction — difficult to show without resorting to stacked slices! For the detail of Coopertown I turned to the Medieval Fantasy City Generator by Watabou, a great utility that can quickly generate the geometry of a random village within some customized constraints.

Finally I surrounded the map with a twisted rope pattern, and within the tiny gap inside each twist hid the outline of Brown's original island.

Below is the final product:


The Lost Island of Apple map (Williams).jpg


If I ever have the inspiration, energy, and time to craft an Eamon adventure of my own, I could easily imagine setting it on the Island of Apple; I'd also be delighted to see others use the setting. The land includes lots of hooks for possible stories, plus plenty of open space for new and exciting features yet unguessed.

Map-wise, my intention is to take what I've learned from this project and apply it over the coming months to some original maps for other Eamon adventures (a new Zyphur River map is in the works), or possibly to new versions of the charts in Hurst's Gazetteer.

Like my imagined explorer Aldus Poak, I'm eager to chart the many wild, magical lands of Eamon!

Foreword

27 June 2020

Voilà — a new blog is born!

I thought it would be fun to post some thoughts and commentary now and then regarding my Eamon-related endeavors, so I'm diving right in. Mediawiki isn't the perfect blogging platform since it lacks many of the niceties that dedicated blog sites provide, but hey, it meets my simple needs, and it feels rather nice to keep it in with all the other wiki content, so for now, here it lives. I do plan to add some extensions, build a few templates, and make some display tweaks to improve the experience, and at some point may cross-post elsewhere.

I hope you enjoy it, and please drop me a message if you have any comments or suggestions. Thanks!