Monday, 13 October 2014

Soltan Ephemeris Tour

Earlier in the year, I posted previews of the Soltan Ephemeris, the solar system of the +World of Calidar.  Since then, on Facebook and Google+ I've posted various pieces of concept art — renders of each planet, set against beautiful NASA space imagery.  All of these come together in an illustration on page 119 of Calidar: In Stranger Skies, which shows the Soltan Ephemeris in all its glory.

You can see how to go about making things like this in the tutorials on my Cartography Links page, accessible from the menu bar at the top of this page.  (I watched them all and then took the bits I liked best.)

But today I thought it would be fun to gather them all up together here in one place.  At the same time, I've put together another video tour showcasing all of these images.

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Soltan, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
The Mighty Soltan
I had a lot of fun making this image.  I actually created a full equirectangular projection map of Soltan's "surface".  I'm not sure it will ever be needed aside from in making this image, but you never know with fantasy settings.

Soltan is utterly vast: 110 times the size of its largest orbiting planet, Calidar.  It's really very similar to our sun in most respects.

Narrated tour of the Soltan Ephemeris at YouTube

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Soltan Ephemeris, orbital diagram, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
Soltan Ephemeris illustration from Calidar: In Stranger Skies

This is the diagram for which I made these renders, featured on page 119 of the book.  There are three separate scales in this image: size, distance from Soltan, and distance from parent planet to orbiting moon.  These are all separate, of course, because the distance numbers are so vast as to make it impossible to display them all at the same scale.

To clarify: Soltan and all the planets and moons are shown at relative sizes; the distances between Soltan and each planet are all shown at relative scales; and the distance from each planet to its moons are all shown at relative scales.

It's all a bit confusing, really.

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Draconia, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
First planet from the sun in the Soltan Ephemeris. It's a bare, desolate, atmosphere-less rocky waste. The planet is in synchronous orbit of Soltan, so the same side of Draconia always faces it.

Amongst the dark rocky surface are veins and pockets of gold and silver. Whether these are actual metals or some form of energy is as yet unknown.

So where do Draconia's inhabitants live? The planet is hollow, with a dark interior populated by the native draconic races and their minions, which include the Draconic Order of the Black Queen.

All of these images are concept art rather than maps, so the final map of the planet may well change.

(Starfield courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/UofA/ESA/AURA/JHU.)

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Calidar, Kragdûr, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
Calidar with one of its moons, Kragdûr
This is the most recent render of Calidar itself, superseding the image we used as branding for most of the past year.  It's actually still not perfect — it doesn't quite show the Great Caldera's terrain correctly (although it's close-ish), and the other continents are also probably a bit off.  But the mountain locations are likely all correct.

(Starfield courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/UofA/ESA/AURA/JHU.)

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Kragdûr, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
One of Calidar's three moons, Kragdûr is the twin of Alorea. They share the same orbital path, perpetually chasing each other around Calidar.

Both moons were originally populated with gnomes, which at some point in the ancient past engendered elves on Alorea and dwarves on Kragdûr. As relations between the two moons declined, both sides came to view the gnomes with suspicion, and eventually they were subjugated and enslaved.

While the elves of Alorea spent their energies on conserving their moon, Kragdûr's dwarves stripped theirs bare in search of more and yet more natural resources.

Kragdûr's terrain is dominated by mountains and valleys, with glaciers, waterfalls, high cliffs and a few inland seas taking up only around 20% of the world.

(Starfield courtesy of NASA/CXC/SAO/JPL-Caltech/STScI.)

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Alorea, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
The twin of Kragdûr, Alorea is the home world of Calidar's elves, and also gnomes.

The entire moon is forested, with some inland seas. Conservation is a number one priority for the elves.

There are a number of different clans, but the Sòldor hold most of the power, controlling the other clans and indeed the moon itself through an academy called the Tòrr-Gàrraidh. Originally founded by the Tolarin to manage the moon's forests, the Tòrr-Gàrraidh has now become a sinister name for the ruling Sòldor junta.

Alorea's gnomes were subjugated by the Tòrr-Gàrraidh centuries ago, and are now used as slaves, kept in line by a magical form of torture.

Alorea has already made an appearance in Melchia's story arc ("The Spy") in Under the Great Vault.

(Starfield courtesy of NASA/CXC/SAO/JPL-Caltech/STScI.)

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Munaan, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
Calidar's largest moon is the birthplace of humanity in the Calidar Universe. The dominant realm of Munaan is Nicarea, an monotheistic nation with strong imperial tendencies. In fact, the Nicareans enforce monotheism with an iron fist, inquisitions and all.

Nicarea conquered the other realms on Munaan, which include Taneth, Bongor, Inti-Suyu, Wichipaw, Gandaria, and Talikai. Other realms have mysteriously disappeared, only to crop up elsewhere.

The moon suffers from overpopulation and rampant exploitation of resources, making the lure of Calidar's virgin territory and vast resources great. But its colonies have long since declared independence. Now it has trade relations with its ex-colonies in Calidar's Great Caldera, though the Nicarean Empire would undoubtedly like a lot more than that.

As with all my planet mock-ups, this is concept art. The land/sea ratio is about 60/40, and the terrain is mostly arid, with desertification.

(Starfield courtesy of NASA/CXC/SAO/JPL-Caltech/STScI.)

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Lao-Kwei, Kumoshima, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
Lao-Kwei with its tiny moon, Kumoshima
Lao-Kwei was originally a fertile planet inhabited by a race of Starfolk (technologically advanced beings) called the Kahuulkin. But their warring ways ended up ravaging the planet, leaving it irradiated and desolate, and reducing Kahuulkin civilisation back to the stone age.

Some time much later, the planet was colonised by the Lao-Kwei people, who were fleeing religious persecution on Munaan. They conquered and enslaved the remnants of the Kahuulkin.

The moon of Kumoshima could not be more different from the planet it orbits. Due to ancient Kahuulkin terraforming, it is a planet rich with fresh water and life. A lot of the time it is enshrouded in clouds.

Kumoshima is dominated by the Daiku Teikoku ("Great Sky Empire"), and the Kumoshimans jealously guard their precious water against would-be thieves.

You can read a little more about Lao-Kwei and Kumoshima at Bruce Heard's blog, in the Rat Hunter short story arc.

(Starfield courtesy of NASA,ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team.)

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Ghüle, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
The last planet in the Soltan Ephemeris is Ghüle.  It's nothing less than a planet-sized mega-dungeon, created by alien outer planar gods and unleashed on the vulnerable worlds of the ephemeris at their whim.  Ghüle is populated by orcs and other humanoids, who raid other worlds for plunder and sacrifices to their evil overlords.

Bruce used an image of Europa for his original Ghüle preview article, so I used a modified version of Europa's topography for its map.  The ravine-like cracks on its surface are envisioned as cracks in the planet's icy surface, from which its dungeon-bound residents emerge when the planet is close enough to Soltan for the ice to recede.

(Starfield courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team.)

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Soltan Ephemeris, orbital diagram, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
The Soltan Ephemeris diagram redone with bigger planets.  Soltan itself is out of scale here (it should be much bigger).
Finally, here is a new version of the diagram, showing the planets and moons much bigger.
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