The Cartography of Thálassa
As a veteran worldbuilder (you could say I mostly build worlds rather than writing about them in the last 20 years), usually my chain of thoughts are likely: idea -> concept -> outline -> worldbuilding. And then everything else.
As you can see here the outline is slowly taking shape, but nonetheless I’ll linger in some short musings about random ideas rising through my head (typically during my morning run).
The World of Thálassa is the ancient Mediterranean Sea, not geographically accurate, but definitely rooted in Ancient Greeks concept of the Cosmos. I am not have the know how nor the skills needed to create something coherent and artistically gorgeous as Fragments of the Past (which has another focus though, more historical/uchronic).
Thálassa is set in “a time of myth and legend” but trying to be faithful to its sources: Homer, Hesiod and Pseudo-Apollodorus.
This framework needs a geography (after all we are talking about a game!), something that is better described by maps than words.
I have a fond memory of my mythology textbook from middle school. It had a good map of Ulysses’ journeys, something like this:
I wanted a map that looked more authentic with a ancient vibe, something you could tell was drawn then. First I remembered Hecataeus’ world map
This map is too defined though. It’s quite good for its times, it represents the Mediterranean basin quite accurately and becomes a little absurd on the edges.
For Thálassa I needed a map even more “abstract” with large unexplored regions, a sketch of world map, rooted in the cosmical concept of a 600 BC mythographer. Then this Wikipedia article came in my aid and I found Anaximander’s map:
This map is perfect for my purpose: it represents the Greek concept of then known continents (note that Africa was Libya!) and I can definitely figure to fill it with mythological locations (and there are many, starting with Mount Olympus), while keeping a good amount of blanks to be filled my players.
That’s because seafaring adventure’s will be pivotal to the gaming experience in Thálassa: I need to sketch exploration rules and procedures, something mechanically abstract with random generation tables for mishaps and wonders. My inspiration here are obviously the Odissey and the Argonautica.
This will be for another post, though.