Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Flats of Tsechélnu - Digitizing Tékumel, Part 17

The Flats of Tsechélnu

My maps are based upon the Swords & Glory map, scaled to meters. In AutoCAD there is a tool called a polyline and if you draw an enclosed shape you can consult the properties and get the area of that shape (in square meters, in my case). So I traced the area on the map that is the Flats of Tsechélnu and a quick check returned the following statistics:

352526588986.0591 sq m 
= 352,526.589 sq kilometers 
= 35,252,658.9 hectares 
= 136 111.277 sq miles

Some RW comparisons:

170,304 km² = Florida
696,241 km² = Texas
20,000 km² = area of Tigris and Euphrates marshes (shared by Iraq and Iran). Note that this the original estimated area, not the current area. The marshes  were drained by Saddam and are only now slowly recovering.
357,168 km² = Germany

So, about double the size of Florida, half the size of Texas and almost the same size as present day Germany. And many times that of the Tigris and Euphrates marshlands.

Yesterday I posted a question on the Facebook Tékumel page, asking how many distinct ecosystems people thought might exist within an area that large. The above illustration is my first, rough guess.

Shown are nine regions:

1) In the far west. My thinking is that the Bútrus Gazetteer probably has this covered. :-)

2) This may or may not be a separate region. I have to re-read the Gazetteer to see what it says.

3) These are the coastal areas. Barrier islands, reefs, beaches and mangrove swamps. Look to the Everglades, or Kerala, or the Mouths of the Ganges for inspiration.

4) This region is described in one of the Solo gamebooks published for Tékumel.

5) Each of these three rectangles is 20,000 km², illustrating that there is a significant area that could be inhabited by Tékumel's version of the Marsh Arabs. The real marshlands have a sea of grass standing over head height in some places. If you did get up high enough to look over all you would see was a "Sea of Grass" extending off to the horizon in all directions. You might see the top of a sail on a boat moving down some distant channel. This is the Hméchànyukh, or "grass sea". :-)

6) This is the region where the flats transition to firmer ground.

7) The present day Mssúma river delta which I have been mapping. This is a relatively tame area of the Flats. The further west one goes the wilder it would become. I would say the sákbe marks the end of the "safe" area and the start of the dangerous sections.

8) This is a region that isn't grasses. Perhaps similar to #2 above. This is where the Mssúma river used to flow in ages past. This river course is now called the Nyélmeyal river (the River of Dreams). The ancient ruins of Ngála no doubt contribute to the character of this region.

9) The final region is Point Kuné. This includes the ruins of Hrúgga's Fortress. so I assume at least parts of the region have high ground or rock outcrops. But I also think it might have been part of the Mssúma river's ancient deltas.

Anyway, that is what I have so far. As always, comments are welcome...


  1. I don't think the Butrus Gazetteer actually has anything to say about that northwesternmost section of the 'Flats -- it's outside the border of the Protectorate, at least going by the maps I'd had, and I purposely tried to keep my hands off anything across that line.

    FWIW, I do think that that area -- and the non-swamp areas to the east of the Turin(a) river -- are pretty flat, pretty low-lying, and very heavily watered, not only by pretty generous rainfall but by runoff from the higher ground of 'Pan Chaka proper' and the high mountains in the south.

    I like your framework for the Flats (as like, I think, all your geographical work!) -- especially zones 7 and 8, which seem so obviously 'right' that I'm a bit jealous ;) W/r/t the coastal strip, zone 3, I'd really prefer to (continue) picturing it as unbroken mangrove-analogue, on a grim and bleak scale. Much more impenetrable, much deeper in extent (both out into the water, and back onto land). And a big, deep, and nasty barrier reef farther out to sea. I like having Penom as the only harbor, and one of the only landing beaches period, in the entire region (it's got such a bad reputation, it deserves to have _some_ kind of cachet, doesn't it?). And the Sea of Grass? Oh, hell yeah :)

    After kicking it around for a day, I do have a slightly different -- or at least overlapping -- idea of how to fill in the blanks of zones 5 & 6. Basically, to have the more inland strip be actually lower-lying than the coastal strip, rather than higher-elevation: make it a depression where water (pluvial & fluvial) pools up (seasonally?). The more coastward strip is the remains of an ancient mountain/hill range, now massively and irregularly eroded into a very unpleasant maze of scrub forests atop low mesas and sheer-sided gullies filled with networks of stagnant water, peat bog-analogues, and blackwater forests; riddled with streams both aboveground and underground, connecting to the coastal strip proper. This karsty-boggy strip merges into the dense mangrove forest on the coast (which is perhaps dependent on more saline water, or something?). So, basically, trying to combine all the least welcoming aspects of the Sudd, the Yucatan, and the Everglades.

    At some point, you know, you're expected to do the swamps around Purdimal, too, so I'd be cautious about 'using up' too many wetland ideas/concepts in one place ;)

    BTW, have you already digitized/scienced up any coastline/drainage maps of Pan Chaka proper? At some point this year I'd like to set aside the time and attention to gin up a 'Southwest Frontier Map Set' and don't want to step on any toes... and especially not toes that are more competent than mine! ;)


  2. Thanks for the comments and kind words! I've been moving about a bit...last week I took a quick look at the Monastery of the Grey Cloak and made an attempt at locating it more accurately. I haven't done anything with Pan Chaka b/c I wanted to re-read the Butrus Gazetteer so as to make sure to incorporate that material. :-) If you want I could trace in the features and send you a file to markup and add details to that I could then, in turn, add to the map. LMK. Best Regards, Howard

  3. The 'moving around' is one of the things that's so fun about following this blog! Until I get my computer issues settled I'm not even going to pretend to think about working on P.C. maps. So, while I'd really enjoy and profit from a file with the bare bones from you, I wouldn't make it any kind of priority. It _would_ be nice, though, if down the road our different mapping projects do kind of 'line up' somehow, at least in those outlines.

  4. I want this map. I want to run a Penom / Flats campaign. I love your analysis. A true cartographer are you.