One of the oldest and most used areas in the earlier days, still on, were the great forests taken directly from the setting. The more important one was Arn Forest, the largest set of maps we had back then - I think it was more than 40 maps, all 10x10 tiles. Real centre of player activity for elves, druids and other nature types. Alchemist gathering place too, for a while. Banditry happened in there, goblins attacked the elven tree settlement, and at some point its western flanks were set on fire, causing a lot of characters normally at odds with each other to work together to stop the fire. Fond memories there.

Well, the playerbase has changed - though activity flared up again thanks to Vashandos rangers and the keep they built, most activity really shifted towards the Fork again, with the Arn Forest being a fondly remembered but rarely visited backdrop - mostly travelled through to get to Arnkeep or for the odd character living in the woods. For myself, at least, it didn't help much either that the classic NWN forest tileset was fairly bland in appearance. I mean, we didn't even have altitude variation, and it certainly did not feel like a northern pine forest to me. I visited it truly rarely, the last years.


Nightly fog

Part of our rebuilding effort was doing the wilderlands - the 'Realmspeak' word for the wilderness - better justice, trying to create outdoor maps closer to what the area should look like in-setting. So, after the most important map updates - i.e., those people were using on a regular basis - we eventually pondered what we would be doing with our woodlands to the east - especially since we had to put Arnkeep nearby somewhere. Can't have that without the accompanying forest. And there was a player with a tower in those woods, second-home at the Fork nonwithstanding. Still, second-rate would not do, so we checked out some tilesets.

I'll say it right here - the only tileset that was ever truly an option was Mountainous Forest by Baba Yaga, and expanded on by Zwerkules. I was quite skeptical even there since it's quite lacking in building options, and doesn't even have water terrain aside from your normal stream - two items that are rather compulsory for our past history in those woods. Other tilesets had those, but, no or lousy pines. 

In the end, I just tried it out. And damn, am I happy I did. Honestly, it looks awesome. With just a bit of terrain variation and lighting play, you can create dense and thick pine forest without too much repetition, and with our weather system providing fog, you can and will get lost in those ancient deep forests. The terrain groups and features may be limited, but together with some placeable work, you can do far more than I had initially feared.

So far, the Arn Forest consists of four 30x30 maps, with quite a bit more to come - just to cover the most important areas, such as Quintars tower, the ranger camp, and the river leading to Arnkeep.

Watcher's Rise

Watcher's Rise by sunset


This is actually a new place that didn't exist in earlier iterations of the forest. It features a stone platform with four great dwarven statues, all set on a stony crag rising up over the trees. A leftover of Old Delzoun, the great dwarven realm that ruled about all the place over a millenia ago. 


I'm pondering to add a bit of dwarven ruins underneath it, too - probably once I get around expanding the Fardrimm (a dwarven tunnel network, similar to the Deep Roads of Dragon Age if you're familiar with that) into that direction.


It's a pretty cool landmark, all in all. Could see folks meeting there simply for it being a good point of reference.



River Icespear

Arn River

The Icespear is actually coming down from the Nether Mountains near the Fork, and then flows west - we invented our own little spin-off going east instead, towards Arnkeep. Should probably give it a new name. As it is, it goes through three forestmaps (two of which are mapped so far) and then stops right at the walls of Arnkeep, large enough to accomodate river barges.

As mentioned before, the tileset only supports small streams - completely unsuitable to the large river I had in mind. So, being as lazy as I am,I dug a trench, removed the trees inside with an overuse of the clearing feature, and filled it with placeable water.

Funny how well lazy ideas work at times. Since it's normal terrain down there too, you can even walk around in the riverbed if one wants to roleplay some swimming. Doesn't look any worse than actual watertiles in most cases - the only issue I found was that certain lighting effects can look a bit odd if you're standing just at the boundary between two connecting water placeables; but since they are four tiles (40 metres!) long, that doesn't happen all that often. Well, that, and it not really showing on the minimap. 




As said, the tileset doesn't really have much in the way of buildings. Two tower variants and a tree hut with two terrain variants. And by 'hut' I really mean a tree trunk with a door and windows. We have a ton of building placeables, but being placeables they don't have door nodes. Still, they can be used now and then - say, a log-cabin like addition to the side of Quintars tower, with the tileset tower holding the door node, or by fiddling with one of the NWN2 Mulsantir houses to place it ontop of the tree hut exactly right for the placeable doorway to align with the hut door node. That fussing about with placeables actually makes me wonder - why not just add invisible door nodes to normal tiles, then put placeables on top? Hmm!

This mulsantir house is actually in Ghostwood, not Arn Forest, and features in the only Ghostwood map that exists so far - I'll write more about that particular spookywood in a later blog. Consider this a sneak-peak.




Arnkeep - Draft Only

Arnkeep was actually simpler than I thought. It's not directly inside the forest, so I fell back to good olde CompleteRC, and finally got the opportunity to play around with those city and castle construction tiles. Doing quite well for a first draft, even though there is something wrong with the door node on the castle gates. For some reason, it freezes loading screens upon entering the area - but only when I place it within a certain distance of the rest of the castle on it's hill. Anywhere else, it works. Heh.

No matter, I'll keep the gates open for now - as they'll usually be for roleplaying, anyway - and bug niv to fix it at some later point. After all, there is a lot of work to be done still with this initial draft, and I have haven't even started with the insides yet! First will be new, more rustic textures for the castle itself, for certain, and the little village nearby - simple folk producing charcoal, which, together with the iron mined one Arn Forest map to the east, is used to make steel at the keep, and later shipped to the Fork. On that - I need movable river barges!


So much for the first few Arn Forest maps. I'll be doing some brief military service starting thursday, so expect a new blog post or content in general from me either far off until March if I'm busy, or pretty damn soon and/or often if I'm not. I really have no idea yet.

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