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Dînadan
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The Cartographers' GuildDînadan 09-05-2015

Dwarfs have an unerring sense of direction and a natural instinct for their position relative to their surroundings, but like the lesser races, even they have their limits and must rely on maps from time to time.  Ironically, their innate nack for geometry leads them to make more detailed maps rather than less detailed as would be expected as they are thus possessed on an inherent compulsion to know exactly how things are laid out and a crudely drawn map can easily lead to venturing down the wrong mine shaft or delving into a magma stream.

As such both the Dawi Zharr and their western kin have developed many methods of mapping out both the topology of the surface world and the byzantine nest of tangled tunnels, caves and shafts beneath it.  These range from the simple, such as maps akin to those employed by men and elves to more ingenious devices which look like a tangled mess to the eyes of men but something closer to mathematical art to the eyes of the dwarfs.

One of the most notable methods devised by the Dawi Zharr, albeit one restricted the guild halls of the Cartographers' Guild, is a multi-layered system which allows for the mapping of the subterrainian side of their empire without resulting in the incomprehensible mess that attempting to do so on parchment would result in.  Glasswork is something that the Dawi Zharr with their close connection to the fires of the world excell in and it is in this method of cartography that such excellence is best shown.  The map consists of several sheets of glass, each representing a different depth (how deep each represents varies from map to map as best fits it's purpose) and each has the layout of the tunnels etched into its surface.  Once the etching is complete, molten metal, most commonly iron, is then poured onto it and left to cool, forming fine thread to make the pathways clearer.  Some cartographers have experimented with mixing different metals within the same etching to represent different things, such as pouring a metal onto when it is mined, but most stick to the tried and tested method of a single metal.  The sheets of glass can then be stacked atop one another and when viewed from above, allows a Dawi Zharr to easily comprehend the layout of the tunnels it maps.

This method also has an advantage over those used by men in that it is easier to copy the map than with one printed on parchment.  If needing to make a parchment map, the Cartographers simply lay the parchment over the relevant layer and then place a lamp or sun crystal beneath.  The light shines through and the Cartographer is then able to simply trace the map.  If needed to carve the map into stone, such as for one of the plaques that adorne the walls of the holds and mines, the relevant sheet is held vertically and a light source placed on one side and the Cartographer uses the shadow cast to chisel it out.

Yet another ingenious method that combines the glasswork and metalwork talents of the Dawi Zharr is a full blown three dimensional map, although only a handful of such maps exist in the entire empire.  The map is a block of crystal clear glass with metal thread woven within perfectly mirroring the tunnels it maps.  Although impressive, this method is rarely practiced, partly due to the skill required being possessed by none but the best Cartographers and partly because of the difficulty in keeping the map up to date, as it is impossible to make changes to reflect the expansion of the mines or loss of them to Greenskins and skaven without destroying the map and creating it anew.  As such, those that do exist are seen more as curios than useful tools and most are either kept as amusing object d'art by wealthy Dawi or kept in archives and museums by chroniclers and archivists as records and references of study into Dawi Zharr history.

Regardless of what form they take, all maps are created and maintained by the Guild of Cartographers.  While not wielding massive amounts of power, either physically or politically, the Guild is nonetheless regarded highly in Dawi Zharr society, and membership is regarded as a respectable career, especially for those family members who are unsuited to military life.  Unlike other institutions wishing Dawi Zharr society, such as the Azure Devils, members of the Guild are still regarded as part of their clan and as such the oaths sworn to the Guild are such that a member will not be forced to take up arms against his kin.  In the event of a dispute between the Guild and his clan, a Cartographer has his membership temporarily suspended, thus preventing him from being forced to act against either his family or the Guild.  

Each Dawi Zharr settlement has a Guildhall from which its Cartographers operate.  In the smaller or more rural and far flung settlements this can range from a modest hall all the way down to the Cartographer's personal chambers within his family's home. The major settlements on the other hand are home to more grandiose affairs that put the ziggurats and halls of the lesser clans to shame.  It is from these that the Guild leadership operates.  Nominally, there are multiple Guilds, each with their own sphere of influence, but in reality, they are so closely aligned as to be a single one and as such they are regarded by society in general.  Every twelve years, a council is convened from the various Guild leaders and one is elected as a the head of the Guild as a whole.  As such the seat of power moves about depending on which Guild the leader hails from, although usually the elected leader hails from Zharr-Naggrund, Uzkulak or Daemons Stump due to those Guilds holding the most sway, and the leadership only going to one of the latter two when Zharr-Naggrund's multiple Guilds are unhappy with the leader Zharr-Naggrund has put forth that election and instead throw their support behind the other candidates as a form of political dissent.

One of the most notable guilds is that of Uzkulak which due to its nature as the Dawi Zharr's major port has long ago been combined with the Navigator's guild and Cartographer's from there often voyage aboard Dawi Zharr ships to help with navigation and to map foreign shores to better assist with future naval raids.  Many from the other guilds see them as queer for their study of the heavens and plotting of the stars, a study useful for navigating ships at night, but not so useful inland or underground.


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09-05-2015 08:16 PM
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Abecedar
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Post: #2
RE: The Cartographers' GuildAbecedar 09-05-2015

Interesting.   I like the idea of how you've created the three dimensional layered maps.


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09-05-2015 09:22 PM
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Dînadan
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RE: The Cartographers' GuildDînadan 09-05-2015

Thanks.  Started watching Critacal Role on Geek & Sundry today and at one point the GM handed out a map of the Dwarven mines they were going to go into and the thought just came to me that a two dimensional map wouldn't be that practical for a network of tunnels and started thinking of ways it could be done.  Had the idea of very thin paper with a back light layered over each other with the viewer leafing back and forth as needed to view more/less levels but I thought paper that thin wouldn't be possible in a fantasy setting, and then it just came to me that it could work with glass and it snowballed from there Happy


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09-05-2015 09:39 PM
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Abecedar
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RE: The Cartographers' GuildAbecedar 09-06-2015

Well, the snowballing worked quite well


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09-06-2015 01:59 AM
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Dînadan
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RE: The Cartographers' GuildDînadan 09-06-2015

Thanks Happy


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09-06-2015 06:35 AM
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RE: The Cartographers' GuildAdmiral 09-24-2015

Ingenious way of making sensible 3D tunnel maps. I've thought about these issues with Dwarfen maps for many years, and though it is obvious they'd need complicated 2D maps or quite cumbersome 3D-maps, the thought of glass never occured to me for some reason (probably because it's flimsy, and flimsiness isn't Dwarfish, haha). Well done, Dînadan! Takes Hat off

Nice fleshing out of the Guild structure and its relations with clans. This is a masterful piece of fictive background, but I have one objection which it'd be nice to see mentioned (if you agree with it): The merged Navigators' and Cartographers' Guilds in Uzkulak might be sneered at by guilders from other settlements, but most likely the hybrid Guild would be obsessively diligent in producing subterranean maps, since knowing where a mining tunnel would risk to burst out into the ocean or up into the bottom of the grand naval tunnel would be of highest importance.

Also, multi-layered glass maps or other 3D maps would probably be highly useful in mapping out the labyrinthine guts of Zharr-Naggrund, both above and below the surface.


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09-24-2015 11:43 AM
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Dînadan
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Post: #7
RE: The Cartographers' GuildDînadan 09-24-2015

Thanks Admiral.  Nice idea with the take on the Uzkulak branch of the Guild - I'll try and add it in when I have time Takes Hat off


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09-24-2015 12:21 PM
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