Monday, 17 October 2016

Preliminary Thoughts on Mapping a Tree

Thinking about the Fixed World led me a while back to speculate that in a land where it was always daytime and always summer there would be plants the size of buildings - and trees the size of skyscrapers or even bigger. That led me to think about a megadungeon that is a single vast tree.

This morning I started thinking about how you might map a tree that is basically a country.

The above picture is a diagram of a tree which stands in my garden.

All the major branches and the trunk are interconnected, on a tree. Anybody can travel between them if they are capable of moving along those branches. But then once you get away from the major branches there are vastly complicated networks of smaller branches and twigs that it would be impossible to actually map.

It makes more sense, then, to divide the tree up into zones. Away from all the major branches radiate networks, which are the different zones marked A, B, C, D, and E. (F is a separate zone where there used to be a big branch, which fell off.)

The red arrows are an attempt to illustrate depth - if the arrow is pointing down it indicates that the branch sort of comes back towards the viewer and if the arrow is pointing up it indicates the branch sort of points away. No arrow indicates the branch is side-on.

Then within each zone there are 4 sectors. Where sectors overlap with each other (A2 and B3, C4 and B2, C2 and D1, C3 and D3, and D4 and E1) travel between zones is possible by going between leaves and twigs in the different zones.

Within each sector there is no need to map anything - you just need to make a note of what is in each sector. It is presumed that there are ways of travelling within sectors fairly straightforwardly, because people will have built up ropeways, spider-silk bridges and whatnot to allow interconnectedness. So if you are in A2 you may have to travel for a day to visit the wizard who makes his home on a certain twig in A3, but you can do it.

All zones and sectors connect with what is called the outer canopy, which is obviously the outer bit which is all leaves, buds, and the very thinnest narrowest twigs. Out there it is probably impossible to build anything because of wind and rain and because of the activities of giant forest animals. Adventurers willing to risk that danger can go out into the outer canopy and use it to traverse the tree if they desire (for example from E3 to A3), but doing so will incur a huge risk.

I have no idea whether this would work or not in a game.


  1. Giant tree as dungeon (based on Yggdrasil in Norse myth) worked in the old 8-bit NES game Faxanadu. I think this could as well.

    1. Interesting. Might have to see if I can get that on an emulator or something.

    2. I've got the ROM, I could email it to you if you like.

    3. Yes! jean DOT delumeau AT gmail DOT com.

  2. Interesting concept. I like it! Would be great elf or faerie based campaign. :-)

    1. Yes, maybe one for Tall Tales of the Wee Folk...

  3. I really loved this concept since you posted it around the first of the year. I kinda went a different way with it - I placed only one large tree and placing it at the edge of a large lake reasoning that a lot of water would be needed to sustain it. So on the eastern side as the roots extend out into the water you run into a muddy mess while the western side tends to be a bit more dry. To build outward and take advantage of the water they have turned the eastern side into a kind of bayou Venice. It leaves the people that live here in an almost always near dark state from the shadow of the tree and they tend to be poor, always dealing with the refuse that falls from above. Occasionally points of light pierce through that veil to hi light certain cathedrals and statues etc. Many of these places pay to have the leaves trimmed back above to give them this "holy light."

    Short of it is thanks for the inspiration. I look forward to seeing this progress.