Friday, May 31, 2019

Sector Map for Ad Astra

I've been thinking that my sector map for AD ASTRA, incomplete though it is, already suffers from a number of legacy flaws.  These are mostly related to two things:
  • I wanted to do something easy with Microsoft Paint rather that something complicated with a more sophisticated mapping software, although...
    • More sophisticated mapping software tends to not be super user friendly, and supports Traveller specifically, making it difficult to do very much tweaking to the format.
    • Plus, I wanted to be able to work with this on various computers, some of which don't have (and I won't be able to add) other software anyway.
  • I still was using a few Traveller conventions in my mapping, although greatly truncated and reduced, and even those seem kinda silly to me now.  They're just legacy that I did because I hadn't yet thought of something better to do.
So, I'm giving some serious thought to how to improve my stellar hex mapping and redo the map in a prettier and more useful format.  This doesn't mean that I have answers, merely that I have problems that need solving.  In some cases, I think I do have answers, but in others, I do not.  I'm considering solutions, but often finding them... inadequate, so I'm trying to think of something else that works better.  Anyway, let's list my problems and see how well I've figured out a solution.  For reference, here's a pretty standard map key for a Traveller map, done in white on black (well; near black) to make it look more "spacey."

Political Affiliation: The first thing I did when I started mapping, after generating randomly where systems were going to be, of course, was that I needed to mark what political affiliation each system would have.  I came up with 11 different types, which although useful to start with, as I got more into development, I found it somewhat inadequate.  I came up with a color code for each affiliation, and just used the fill bucket tool to fill in the whole hex.  This made it easy to tell at a glance what the affiliation was, but as, for example, the Bernese affiliation divided into multiple colonies, each with their own political structure that differed from their neighbors, I found it somewhat unhelpful after a time.  This became even more complicated when I used the "Bernese allied" color—what exactly is a Bernese ally?  I wasn't sure, but it ranged from client or satellite states to mere cultural ties, to a more traditional treaty of mutual protection/aggression type of thing. And sometimes this alliance was with a colonial Grand Duke rather than, say, with the Emperor, so the nuance of what it meant to be a "Bernese ally" grew too big to be well-served by making it a faded version of the Bernese color code. The whole thing was starting to become unwieldy, and what was a convenient shorthand before I'd done much development was turning into something that lacked sufficient nuance after development was more complete.

How does Traveller do it?  They actually draw borders along the edges of the hexes.  This doesn't work for me, though, because territories aren't necessarily contiguous, and of course, nobody claims the empty space in empty hexes, even if it is smack dab surrounded by a territory in the hex map.  Remember, as always, that the hexmap is a convenient shorthand itself that is barely adequate to approximate the realities of three dimensional real space.  It's more of a meta element; useful for the fiction and the gaming applications, because it presents a challenge in terms of creating space routes and jump trajectories than it is meant to actually represent physical placement of the systems, exactly, which certainly won't be on a flat plane as they're represented on the map.

Thinking on how the old National Geographic gigantic world map that I used to have wallpapered up covering one whole wall of my bedroom when I was a kid—which keep in mind is an old Cold War era map—there are only about half a dozen colors that nations use.  The map makes sure that contiguous nations don't use the same color so that they are easy to spot.  Satellite nations, like eastern European nations that were behind the Iron Curtain but somewhat autonomous, like Poland or Czechoslovakia, were not the same color as the USSR, but non-contiguous territory of the USSR (like the Kaliningrad Oblast) were.  Integrated territories, like the various SSRs which are now independent nations, but which were part of the USSR at the time, were the same color, and it took some more careful reading to notice them; at a high level glance, the USSR was just a big pink blob.  Maybe I could do something similar; Bernese colonies would still be the same color as each other, but I'd otherwise use more colors, and some of the other non-Bernese specifically nations, might have more variation in coloration, not necessarily a fainter shade of the Bernese color.  But this is more problematic with other polities; like the various Outremer colonies of the Saraeans.  Not only are they much more autonomous in most respects, maintaining more of a cultural rather than explicitly political dependence on their Empire, but because they border one another in more than one case, it doesn't work very well to make them the same color. But how to I indicate that they're all Saraean colonies, then? I could do like the various SSRs in the USSR on my old map, but that makes it more difficult to spot the differences between them on this type of map. This is one of the problems that I haven't quite worked out. 

I also don't really like shading the whole cell.  Although it is easy to use at a glance when I've zoomed the map out to where I can see it at high level, it's not really very attractive.

Sectors and Subsectors: These are convenient demarcations because it reduces the galaxy into manageable chunks.  A sector is more than enough material for entire campaigns of role-playing games or entire long running serials of novels or other works of fiction.  Considerably more than enough material, in my opinion.  A subsector is a more digestible section, and while it probably can't contain the entirety of a whole long-running RPG campaign that's dedicated to the concept of traveling between the stars, it certainly gives you enough material for many adventures.

However, these are all meta reasons for sectors and subsectors.  Traveller mapping got way too into the concept of treating sectors and subsectors like they were political units, with capitals, with fancy names, etc.  While the graphic I'm using to map AD ASTRA is based on a Traveller sector map, so it has the size of a sector and the subdivisions into subsectors, these aren't meant to mean anything other than convenient divisions on the map.  In reality, I doubt that I'll ever map more than half of the sector—ever—and the subsector is actually a little bit too small for me to spell out political divisions of the size that I prefer.  My sector does have a name, the New Alderamin sector, but the subsectors will not be named, they'll just be used as geographical conveniences based on the letter, but in reality, I probably will just ignore subsectors altogether.

The Dot in the Center: Traveller maps have a colored dot in the center of each hex that has a system.  Occasionally it's an icon other than a dot, but if there's a regular planet, a dot it usually is (or circle, depending on the mapping iteration.)  Usually, having this merely meant that a planet was present in the system (that's why there were a few other symbols in use too).  In black and white mapping, it could be an empty white circle, or a filled in black circle, which meant no water present and water present respectively.  In some color versions, it was more complicated, and things like "Garden World" were colored green, while "Ocean World" would be blue, and "Ice Worlds" would be a very pale bluish white, etc.  I was putting a dot in the center, but there was no color-coding or other meaning to it other than it was a convenient way for me to indicate that I'd actually generated a planetary data sheet for the place.  What if I used a filled in circle (not a dot, but an actual circle) as a color code to indicate political affiliation?  Sure, sure, I need more than that (probably a label below the name of the system) but it will also be usable at a glance from relatively high level, because I'll make the circle big enough that it can be seen even when the map is zoomed.

Base Symbols and Other Markers: For whatever reason, and I'm not 100% sure that I understand the reference that made Marc Miller think this was a good idea, there's a very varied use of symbols to indicate if a system has some kind of military base.  For my setting assumptions in AD ASTRA, this is superfluous, and I'd never want to do it. Either few places have bases, or maybe they all do, but they're of much less importance than the authors of Traveller seemed to think that they'd be. They also have a deal where the font (all caps, for instance, versus all lower case) can be a quick and dirty population approximator.  I'm not doing either of those.  There are even some extremely complicated maps that I've seen here and there (this screenshot of some kind of phone app, for example) that try to tell you almost everything that the data sheet would tell you right there in the hex itself.  

While the map there to the side is certainly attractive, it's way too busy and if you can't stop and look at the data sheet, you're probably doing something wrong.  Rather than trying to cram too much information into the map itself, I'm thinking—what are the most important things that someone would want to tell at a glance?  (I do, however, really like the grayed out empty hexes.  I really should do that.)

For me, political affiliation is the most prominent one.  I've gradually realized that my entire mapping strategy revolves around creating "nations" in space and then detailing the worlds within them.  And, as I said up above, political affiliation can be more nuanced than merely "a Monarchy world."  Given the political realities, any potential traveler needs to understand this aspect first and foremost before jumping into a system; a Bernese privateer won't jump into a Revanchist world expecting safe haven, although he might jump into a Revanchist world to prey on shipping.  

Secondly, because my map is a work in process and probably will be for a long time to come, it's worth noting that I've assigned which hexes will have systems, and what political affiliation (at a high level) they will have, and in many cases, the names before I've actually done a data sheet for the system.  So from a meta perspective, I need to know if a data sheet is available for the system or not. 

Third, while the data sheet has all of the info, there's still a few things that are worth noting at a glance, specifically what category of starport the system sports and if unrefined fuel is available so that you can plan jump routes using unrefined in a pinch (or if you need to avoid the spaceport specifically for some reason—often because you want to avoid the gaze of the system authority.)

Everything else can be looked at on the data sheet; planetary size, population, atmosphere type, etc.  It is certainly presumed that anyone who dares to travel the stars is expected to have space suits and breath masks for those who want or need to leave the safety of the ship (or, in a pinch, have a robot who can do it for you, at least) so any other consideration can be figured out after you've already decided to jump to the system, or research-favoring crews can read the data sheets of all of the systems on their proposed routes ahead of time.

AD ASTRA Mapping Key:  With all that in mind, here's the map key for my AD ASTRA map.  It's significantly reduced from its Traveller prototype, but it has everything that I need on it.  Let's go through the elements real quick on a dummy data system:
  • First off, of course, is the hex number, here 0101 (in reality, 0101 is empty on my sector map.)  Because this is key to locating the system and tying it to the keyed data sheet, it's the largest and most prominent element of the hex.
  • Below that is the red circle, which indicates that this is not an empty system, and that it is part of a nation that's color-coded red.   The letter in the middle of the circle is the type of starport that the system has, in this case, a type A starport, which is a high quality starport with every service you could want from a starport, including shipyards where ship construction can be commissioned.
  • The dagger symbol to the left of the circle indicates that this particular system does have a data sheet complete for it, which can be referenced.  The dot to the right indicates that naturally occurring unrefined fuel can be found in the system as well.
  • Below that in bold text all-caps text is the name of the system.
  • Below that in smaller, italic text is the political affiliation.
  • Below that is the more nuanced political affiliation; i.e., it's not just a Bernese world, but also a part of the XY colony (not a real colony in AD ASTRA, obviously.)
  • The other thing that I'll end up adding to my map are space-lanes.  I've drawn a few in on alternate cut and paste portions of the map, but I'll add them more explicitly on the newer version of the map.  I got a little carried away making permutations of space lanes when I did it; you can leave the space lane and jump to another system, of course, and in places like relatively tightly packed colonies, it's assumed that traffic moves back and forth within the colony frequently without it needing to be marked as part of the space lane per se.  Space lanes will be in a lighter color that can be readily seen against the other lines and grayed space that the map will end up having.  

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Friday Art Attack (early)

I'm going to do this today, because I have time to look through stuff and tomorrow might be iffy.  Let's see what we get...

Although not exactly the Paizo version of Conan, this character from the Iron Gods adventure path (IIRC) certainly looks close enough.

Another great fantasy landscape; a kind of hyper-dramatic Yosemite Valley with lots of fog.

I love this kind of classic stuff...

A "young" wizard with his raven familiar.

Liches are always bad news.

Wayne Reynolds gives us fire giants striding through a lava lake.  Muspelheim, eat yer heart out!

I don't find very many "new" images of Nagash anymore, so this was nice to come across when I did.  By the way, did you realize that Nagash is at least one transliteration of the Hebrew word for Serpent?  Nagash, then, is actually Satan.

Some concept art for a putative Alien V, or Alien:Xeno as it was also called, which would have been directed by Neill Blomkamp.  It got stuck in some kind of "development hell" and never materialized.

Some early art associated with Leigh Brackett's Mars.  I think that's supposed to be from The People of the Talisman associated with a French version of the story.  By the way, because you can probably pick it up used in tons of locations really cheap and easy, you totally should pick up the double-book, as it's usually printed, which includes The Secret of Sinharat and The People of the Talisman.  While it shows its very obvious Edgar Rice Burroughs influences—both from Tarzan and from Barsoom—it's written in a completely different tone, and is just really well done.  If you can get ahold of them, the original versions of those stories are good too, and show some interesting differences—a kind of last vs. penultimate draft kind of thing, as if reading a novel where the author had only the first half of someone else's work and a very sketchy outline of the second half and he wrote it himself.  Queen of the Martian Catacombs is the Planet Stories title (and kind of an inaccurate one at that) and Black Amazon of Mars respectively.

In general, the expanded and revised versions are better, but after you read them, finding the originals and comparing and contrasting is interesting.

Finding text of the old Planet Stories magazines online shouldn't be too hard.  They were both published in Planet Stories, in Summer 1949 and March 1951 respectively.  Both stories rated the cover art.

Retrofuturistic home on the Moon, or something.

Mermaids and sharks.  It's sometimes debatable which is more dangerous...

The larger animal is the extant pronghorn.  The smaller one is an extinct relative that was running around North America 10,000 years ago, or maybe less.  I really miss the North American megafauna that is extinct, although maybe I'd be a lot less willing to go hiking by myself if short-faced bears, mammoths, sabertooths and more were likely to be found in the wilderness...

Some ghost-army art from the new Warhammer setting, Age of Sigmar.

This post-apoc art showing soldiers in radiation or gas suits and one in a tripod not unlike that used in the original War of the Worlds or John Christopher's early YA science fiction series The Tripods.

By the way, when I first joined the Boy Scouts way back in the mid 80s, my parents got me a subscription to Boys' Life and it was serializing the novels back then as a one-page per issue comic strip.  Good times.  Sadly, they were well into the third book by the time I got started, so I never really got the gist of the plot very well.

An early Cretaceous North American ceratopsid Aquilops which is more derived than Psittacosaurus but less so than almost all of the neoceratopsids.

What Spider-man maybe really should have looked like...

An Amazon falconer with an Archaeopteryx as her falcon.

Classic space opera pirate ship.  You can tell because of the skull and crossbones, see...

Two similar interpretations of Ares, the Greek god of war, one from Marvel comics, and the other by Wayne Reynolds for the third edition version of Deities & Demigods.

Arkhan the Black, Nagash's most loyal and trusted retainer.

Synthwave and cyberpunk.  A match made in heaven, certainly.

I believe this asteroid base (or maybe it's Mars' moon Phobos) is from the Destiny series of video games.  But it's a pretty classic asteroid mining facility in appearance.  Reminds me a lot of the old 1981 Sean Connery western-in-space movie Outland.

According to Herodotus, this is actually what Atlantis looked like in its heyday.  Some people—I mean weirdo Graham Hancock type people—think that the Richat structure, the "Eye of the Sahara" in Mauritania is the ruins of this Atlantis, although it is of course almost certainly merely an eroded geologic dome and a totally natural structure that just happens to have some unusual features.

Although curious, the location actually kinda works.  However, sinking in the ocean, and having the ocean retreat and leaving you in the desert are, of course, the exact opposite problem, so it's a kinda strange idea even for that crowd.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Star Wars Fail Part II

WCB released their second part in this series.

Personally, I think the Joseph Campbell analysis is not nearly as compelling as all that; it works because you render stories down to such basic levels that you're not really saying anything interesting about them anymore.

Otherwise, though—he still makes a great point if you can kinda downplay that long aside about how unlikable the plot is.

The Bechtel Marches

System: Brigium
Hex Location: 0326
Star Type:  Single White dwarf A4 VII
Number of Worlds: 11
Gas Giants: N
Planetoid Belt: N

Starport Type: E Frontier Star Port
World Size: Larger than Earth
Atmosphere Type: Dangerous; completely unbreathable and corrosive
Surface Water: 63%
Population: Medium, c. 500 million
Political Affiliation: Bernese Monarchy, Bechtel Marches
Tags: Xenophobia, Forgotten, Oppressed natives
Notes: While I tend to see the Bernese as a "protagonist" nation, the way the system rolled up made this one where the Bernese simply had to be the oppressors.  Sometimes people leave their own nation because they cannot stand the social mores and morality of their own people and want to live according to their own ideas, which are not tolerated.  And rightly so; in the case of Brigium, the Bernese settlers found a world which had been forgotten during the Dark Ages after the fall of the Marian Empire.  The natives, once human, had undergone rather radical genetic surgery to make themselves able to live on the harsh world; high gravity and with an unbreathable, corrosive atmosphere.  The bulky transhumans who are the natives have incredibly thick dermal layers, and even transparent bone structures that cover the sensitive tissues of their eyes, and have developed filtering membranes over their noses.  They now see themselves as the pinnacles of evolution, although they had lost not only the technology to leave their world or to undergo further genetic refinement; luckily the changes carried down to future generations since they are now present in their genetic code.

The Bernese who found this world were little more than pirates with delusions of grandeur, and they set up a state where they were the undisputed rulers of this planet, using their modern military technology and warlock magic to enforce their rule.  Luckily for the natives, the Bernese were more interested in exploiting the natural resources of Brigium rather than the transhuman resources.  The acid vapor that makes the atmosphere so corrosive also covers portions of the surface in lakes and ponds and bubbling springs, and has incredible industrial flexibility.  It is most often used in small, portable yet powerful antimatter batteries, and the Bernese have a thriving industry devoted to antimatter battery acid processing from Brigian acid.

The vast majority of the population are technically Bernese citizens, although few have much knowledge of what's going on off-world or even ever see anyone who's not a native, and the actual Bernese people are a small, elite minority that maintain themselves apart from the natives in gravity-magicked fortified outposts.  They have a strange melancholy, feeling trapped in their fortress-cities, and awaiting the inevitable extinction of their caste; their numbers have declined for generations due to various insurrections, wars, succumbing to depression and the harsh environmental conditions, and simply failure to procreate; they now number less than a million.

System: Vetius
Hex Location: 0425 
Star Type:  Single A7 VI
Number of Worlds: 10
Gas Giants: N
Planetoid Belt: Kuiper and asteroid belt

Starport Type: A High Class
World Size: Earth-sized
Atmosphere Type: Thin
Surface Water: 27%
Population: Small 750,000
Political Affiliation: Bernese Monarchy, Bechtel Marches
Tags: Xenophilia, Industrial World, Civil War
Notes: Vetius was settled by Bernese that did not have the same pirate background as the settlers of nearby Brigium, but in spite of that, the two planets were part of a single political alliance going back to before the official formation of the Bechtel Marches colony of the Monarchy.  They have also had a tough go at it in many respects, their mostly industrialized world provides a number of goods, and ships, to the entire region, but political infighting between the various merchant houses has kept the planet from prospering as it should.  Currently the Bertio and Arold houses are in open conflict with each other over who will be appointed Prime Minister, and it has come to warfare; armed troops have ambushed and fought each other, although the war is somewhat more "cold" than "hot" at the moment, as they are trying to keep from attracting unwanted attention from the Margrave assigned by the Monarchy to administer the colony.

Many of the most important members of Vetian society are married to Altairans.  All across the Bechtel Marches there is wide sympathy towards the Altairan Ascendancy and antipathy towards Outremer and the Heathens in general, but the Vetians take this sympathy to the next level and practically fawn over Altairans.  Some few scions of Altairan merchant families have looked to renew flagging fortunes with Vetian husbands by making alliances via marriage with their daughters, but the low population on Vetius has kept this from becoming a major rage, and only the richest Vetians can attract them; the Altairans are hyper aware of maintaining their civilizational integrity in the face of Saraean aggression, so sending daughters off to marry Bernese is a painful blow to some.

And, in spite of the generally industrial nature of Vetius, the elite do manage to live in pristine palaces of exceptional beauty.

System: Nemaia
Hex Location: 0426
Star Type:  Triple G1 V, M2 VI, M3 Ia (the first two are close.)
Number of Worlds: 12, 13
Gas Giants: 7, 4—Hot Jupiter on the supergiant star
Planetoid Belt: 2 Kuiper belts, 4 asteroid belts

Starport Type: C Routine
World Size: Mars-sized
Atmosphere Type: Earth-like
Surface Water: 4%
Population: Large 4 billion
Political Affiliation: Bernese Monarchy, Bechtel Marches
Tags: Mining World, Regional Dominance, Eugenic Mania
Notes: Nemaia is the capital of the Bechtel Marches, and is a highly diverse system.  The data sheet describes the main planet where over 90% of the population lives, but given that it's a triple system (two stars are close enough to act as a single center of gravity for an entire system, but the supergiant outlier has its own system of planets as well) but the fact that there are so many planets here and so many resources to be extracted means that there are corporate and colonial government interests at stake throughout the entire system.

The population is heavily Bernese, although like most colonial worlds, there is a sprinkling of others.  This population of others has spiked in recent years as refugees from the Altairan worlds conquered by the Civitas Ordenis Umbraci have come to the system.  More of them fled to other Altairan worlds, of course, but enough have made their way here that they are now a significant minority in the streets.  The Bechtelians have always been friendly with their neighbors from the Altairan Ascendancy, but following the disaster of the Saraean conquest, their friendship has been strengthened.  Many interests support a strong stance against the Saraeans, although only the most radical actually propose open warfare.  However, many privateers of Bechtelian origin now have letters of marque from the northern Altairan Ascendancy to prey on Saraean ships in the broader region.

Otherwise, in many respects, Nemaia is the model for what a Bernese colony system should look like.  Heavily Bernese in population and culture, albeit more independent minded like Colonials everywhere who are separated from their host nation, fairly peaceful and prosperous, enough so that the population has grown to nearly Core world size, industrious, and an economic and political benefit to the Monarchy overall.  Miners work the dry, often crystaline surface of the planet and various space-faring "ice truckers" to the icy planetoid belts make a prosperous (if somewhat lonely) living in the system as well.  There is a growing entrepreneurial spirit in the system too, as various people have tried to come up with new methods of farming, ranching, mining, or services.  Nemaia is vibrant and exciting for those who live there.

One such new enterprise that has led to a somewhat strange development is very radical (although only cosmetic) gene splicing that has created some very bizarre looking individuals among those who are wealthy enough to indulge in this weird mania.  Of course, this means that Nemaia has been prosperous for long enough that there is an entire caste of people who are indulgent and indolent second (or more) generation wealthy, and don't otherwise know what to do with their time or money.  This stratification and the cosmetic excess of the wealthiest class on Nemaia certainly is off-putting to the more pragmatic, salt of the earth types who otherwise make up the backbone of the Bernese Colonial worlds, but it is also seen as a strange affectation of only the most indolent of wealthy Nemaians.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

New Ad Astra systems coming

I actually promised these some time ago, but only did a few.  I've now identified over 70 new systems to do data sheets for, to finish the Bernese colonies, the Outremer Imperial colonies, and the Revanchist colonies, as well as a few neighbors that you can't really not do because they're located smack dab in the middle of those other colonial powers.

Yikes.  Anyway, here's the complete list of Star system data sheets that are done, and those that are targeted (which show up in the list, but not yet as links since I haven't created the pages for them, obviously.)

I may not cross-post them here as I've done in the past, but we'll see.  I also can't promise that you'll see a huge bender of activity in the next few days, but in the coming weeks and throughout the summer, I'd like to see a significant dent made in that lengthy list.

I also still have a lot of systems named on my map but which I have not yet targeted for data sheets.  That's OK.  I actually think that it's counter-productive to detail too much setting if it isn't needed yet, and let's be clear; I don't really even need these, although I'm enjoying having them and fleshing out the communities a bit more; it's actually making the notion of some Bernese privateers and/or smugglers running around the area more appealing rather than having all the action set more constrained in the Carthen or Carrick areas.

Star Wars Fail Part I

I'm not the author of this video, by the way.  I just like it.

Friday, May 24, 2019

A few random images

For some reason, I have a few images in a different folder than most of my pictures.  I decided I'll go ahead and post them and then move them to my Used folder along with everything else I've posted here.

Many of them are different; some are old blog-roll banners, one is a weird story idea, several are various "gas mask" logos (related to the EDM gas mask kinda thingy) that I thought maybe I'd play with to create my own version, and one is a Star Wars: The Clone Wars image deliberately made in homage to an old Ralph McQuarrie concept art from The Star Wars; back when the characters were still pretty different (I included that as reference too.).  And the last bunch are some images of an old ancestor of mine from the mid to late 19th century.

Friday Art Attack

A synthwave cover art image, of course.  Synthwave is a kind of faux 80s movies (or even video game) soundtrack genre, that does sometimes include lyrics, at which point it shades into merely 80s nostalgia style synthpop.

It's important to put a lich up every week, I think.  I guess I must just have a lot of lich pictures.

I don't know what an eagle would be doing in such a dense forest, but I think the idea of a trained NE Coast indian falconer with a big, shaggy eagle is kinda fun anyway.

Some 4e Eberron art by WAR.  I don't actually know what that woman is doing; her pose is very bizarre and she looks too skinny to hold up that much hardware on her head without falling over.

I think if hot naked women crawled around at Devil's Postpile during the summer, tourism would probably increase.

Well, maybe not for families, of course.

The cover to the edition of A Princess of Mars that I first read.  There was also some Frazetta line art in that edition, and I will never, ever get the Frazetta inspired images out of my head when imaging John Carter, Dejah Thoris, the calots, the green men, or anything else.

Although in my mind Dejah Thoris is, of course, actually red.

Charge of the Night Brigade.

When we think of the Greeks we don't necessarily think of Egyptian imagery, but we have to remember that the Greeks really got around.  They had tons of cities in southern Italy and on Sicily, all along the Black Sea, the French and Spanish riviera (Marseilles is based on an old Greek name Massalia.)  In The Clash of the Titans from the 80s, Andromeda was presumably Greek, but she was from Joppa if you listen, and Joppa, which wasn't part of Greece in even a loose sense until after the founding of the post-Alexander Seleucid Empire, but was rather either Phoenician, Philistine, or Hebrew, depending on the time period.  In myth, she and her parents were actually white Aethiopians, which seems a contradiction in terms given that the Greek word Αἰθίοψ (Aithiops) actually means "burnt-face" presumably in reference to dark skin.  Although keep in mind that although we think of Africa as black today, the ancient world did not, and sub-Saharan black Africans were probably extraordinarily rarely ever seen by the Greeks or Romans, even when Egypt and North Africa were provinces of their empires.

Another lich, this time confronted by Elric himself, in this Michael Whelan piece.  The colors are a little pastel for my taste, but still; Michael Whelan.  C'mon.

I'm not quite sure what's going on here, but there seems to be some kind of technological overlay on the fantasy going on.  Sometimes I quite like that idea.

An alternate redesign of Darth Vader.

This is just a really cool fantasy landscape, but it could represent Rivendell quite well, actually.  Especially if you believe the quite probable theory that Rivendell was heavily inspired by Tolkien's own experiences hiking and backpacking in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland when younger (in 1911), of which this could be a slightly fantasized up version.

Speaking of Tolkien, here's an image of Eowyn and the Witch-king.  As good technically and dramatically as this image is, however, I can't reconcile Eowyn looking as big and bulky as a man here.  If she isn't feminine and slight and attractive, then she doesn't work.  Tolkien describes her very tall, of course, but not as looking like a shot-putter or body-builder.

Eox was merely an intriguing and interesting footnote of sorts in the Pathfinder book Distant Worlds, it becomes a major setting element, however, of Starfinder.

Epicyon haydeni, the largest member of the dog family that ever existed (possibly not counting some extremely large breeds of domestic dog, of course.  The variability within that group is truly astounding.)  The largest known specimen weighed an estimated 375 lbs, although on average they would have been much smaller; well within large dog range.

Of course, this is the borophagine subfamily; a somewhat hyena-like bone-cracking family that was widespread before the advent of "modern" canids like the wolf, jackal, coyote, etc.

Demons are always fascinating, especially when they are both horrifying and sensual at the same time, right?

Someone (many someones, actually) decided that Boba Fett going out like a chump is really stupid, so here's n image of him escaping the sarlacc shortly after getting tossed in.

A phytosaur like Rutiodon attacking a silesaur like Eucoelophysis in the Chinle.  The name of the latter is ironic: "true Coelophysis" wasn't even (most likely) a dinosaur at all, much less a Coelophysis specimen.  Although we can't completely rule out the possibility that it was a primitive ornithischian instead of a silesaur.

A big hairy guy.  A werewolf?  A beastman?  A thurse? Up to you, I suppose.

(As an aside, I created the word thurse myself from Old English þyrs, but it turns out that it is actually a real word, and þyrs carried on into Middle English as thurse, thursse, thyrce, thurs, and thirs.  I was kinda trying to do what Tolkien himself had done with the word orc and make it sound like a native English word even though I had never seen it and only knew the Old English and Old Norse versions of the word.  And I'm not even a linguist!)

The word appears as is in Stephen Grundy's 2010 translation of Beowulf: "And yet he was also, though many generations separated them, distant cousin to the shining eoten-maid Geard, whom the god Frea Ing had seen from afar and wedded; and to Scatha, the fair daughter of the old thurse Theasa, who had claimed a husband from among the gods as weregild for her father's slaying: often, it was said, the ugliest eotens would sire the fairest maids."

Although I believe eoten should be modernized to ettin or etten.  See Joseph Jacobs collected English fairy tales, specifically "The Red Ettin." (Which is actually an Irish fairy tale, but it uses an old dialectical English word in it, of course.)

During the Eemian interglacial 125,000 years ago (another time that was warmer than today's temperature, you stupid climate alarmism cultists) the majority of Fennoscandia actually became separated from the mainland and was an island.  I don't know why, but I really love maps like this that show slightly alternate geographies based on what we believe the past was like as sea levels rose and fell.  Although generally I prefer the lower sea level interpretations where Great Britain was connected to the mainland and much of the North Sea shelf was the Doggerland and was full of big animals, hunters, and more.