Koristan is the largest continent on the world of Àstareth. This planet is the location of my fantasy fiction and the cradle of the Sa’adani Empire from my science fiction books.
The color maps here were made with Fractal Terrains and Campaign Cartographer, two great products from ProFantasy. I use a number of ProFantasy products in my world design work and highly recommend them. (I have no affiliation except for being a happy customer for well over a decade.)
These maps may be downloaded for personal use. If you repost them somewhere, please attribute to me and include a hotlink to the url noted in red at the bottom of the maps. If you don’t mind, I’d also be grateful to know how you’re using these maps or where they’re appearing, if you do pass them on. You can drop me a note at teramis at deborahchristian dot com if you like. Thanks!
Map #1. General Terrain
The equator runs through the midline of this image. Koristan occupies the equatorial zone and the northern hemisphere in this view. The landmass to the southwest of Koristan is the island continent of Drakmil (older name, Drakimilu). In the southern hemisphere is a land called Arishan.
Map #2. Fiction Locations
The places circled in red in the map below are locations where events from my novels take place, or that are referenced here and there in various pieces of my fiction. Book titles are in large-font bold italics. The circles are just meant to draw attention to the general location of the place named; they’re not meant to depict precise boundaries (that’s a whole different series of maps).
When I began building this world, I first drew an entire world map, with regions and cultures marked out in broad strokes. Then I began to detail this continent of Koristan. I drew the first hand-drawn version of this map in 1979. Detailing this region served two purposes for me: for one, it gave me a better feel for the geography of places in my fiction. For another, it became the practical backdrop for my role-playing games as I began world-building for my rpg campaign(s).
The Duchy of Nimm was the first place I developed in detail, and was the homeland of a group of adventurers who soon wound up in Drakmil (magically transported). Nimm is also the home of both protagonists and antagonists who feature prominently in The Truthsayer’s Apprentice, although that book is set across the bay in Tura-kem (see hand-drawn map #3, below). The elf Thengel and his companions from Truthsayer hail from Caerlian, where their people fight beastial marauders called karzdaki. In the short story The Transformation of Gerick Bare-Skin, werebears also fight the karzdaki further north on the borders of Nimm.
In an earlier time, Koribee conquered northern barbarian tribes (including those of Nimm), and created arbitrary zones of governance (duchies) in the north of the continent. In a period of domestic turmoil the reach of the Empire contracted, leaving these duchies as stranded, and later, collapsing, islands of “civilization” in the north. The Duchy of Nimm is one such area. The place is not a “duchy” proper as one would expect in a more cultivated land. Elites in that realm cling to their once-imposed, now-adoptive ties to Koribee and “civilization”, but the clansmen and tribes who make up the bulk of the population have other ideas.
The capital of the Duchy, Nimm-on-Witholl, is the first place I ever wrote a completed, polished short story about (in 1977, while I was in the Army stationed in West Berlin). Or more precisely, the story was set there, although it was not strictly about there. That tale is called Small Benefits, and deals with a mage and an unexpected encounter. Elsewhere I’ve written about my love of twists and “gotcha” endings, inspired in part by a particular short story by Robert Heinlein. Small Benefits is an example of what this preference spawned early in my writing career. I’ll be recording it soon as an mp3 or part of a podcast, and making that available here in the near future.
I have rarely run commercial modules in my campaign worlds, and none at all after about 1981 – I quickly became an affirmed do-it-yourselfer when it came to designing adventures and settings. However, for the commercial modules that I did run, they were set in Drakmil. Most notably I placed the city of Sanctuary there, that wonderful, rancid, divey little town from the Thieves’ World role-playing game. Having recently read the books, I was eager to explore a congested, corrupt city, and a fine design job those game designers made of it, too. (The exact location in Drakmil is not visible on this map, though.)
I don’t recall names of those few other modules, but one was the three-part TSR series about exploring a lost Egyptian-style tomb in a sandy desert. I mutated this considerably to fit it into my world, and placed the sandy wasteland in the unlikely location of that northwest spur of Drakmil which shows on this map. (Unlikely because it is near an equatorial zone – moisture, rain, tradewinds, all that. However, the Sahara is also not that far away from the equator, and that manages to be a desert, so it seemed remotely possible to me.) And yet, the fact of a desert in this place niggled in a bothersome way. After that module was history and I decided there was no cultural reason to have pyramids in that area (none at all! and all the more reason to design my own culturally coherent adventure settings) – then I was left with a bigger question. Since I’d already mapped a desert and thus brought it into being (and I usually don’t change things once they’ve gelled), I had to ask: why was there a desert there at all? Did something happen to cause a desert? Why else would one be there?
And thus the idea for the novel Kar Kalim was born.
I won’t say more than that (spoilers), but Kar Kalim helped explain peculiar local geography, and introduced or gave background for other elements (the karzdaki, powerful magical gemstones, dimensional portals and cosmology) that appear elsewhere in my work as well.
Miscellanea from Empire to Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Koribee Empire is the 800-pound gorilla in the room through most of my fantasy timeline. Think something between imperial Rome and a successful Persia, and you get an idea of the global reach and cultural footprint of this world-dominating realm. Their fortunes rise and fall and rise again throughout the centuries, but they are not knocked out of the power-political stage entirely until the (much later) equivalent of “modern times” on this planet.
Sharzan is a Middle Eastern-ish culture. The mountainous region between Koribee and Sharzan is called the Kadun (not labeled), and is the setting of The Warlord’s Adjutant, the next book in the series after Truthsayer’s Apprentice. (Adjutant is in publishing limbo along with the rest of that series at this writing, although I do plan to continue the story arc in other ways. See my comments on this here.)
Speaking of obscure areas, another marked but unlabeled bit is that tiny patch on the bottom between Tura-kem and Nimm. This is the land of Tren, the setting of my first anthology submission in about, oh, 1985. That story was, I’m sorry to say, a little over the maximum word count, and I was soundly lambasted for that by the editor, Marion Zimmer Bradley herself. Chalk up one lesson learned about heeding editors’ requirements for submissions! But, alas, the Tren story never saw print, and today I can no longer find that typed manuscript. I hope someday perhaps to write it again, and maybe even do it better a second time around.
Bergnen is the homeland of dwarves. They have their own saga that is percolating in the background, so I won’t say much about that area right now.
Arilethné is the lost homeland of most elves. Lost because this region became mostly uninhabitable by a mini-ice age that impacted the north of this continent very recently. The elvish diaspora that resulted is a tale all its own. Bloodlines from old Arilethné breed true for generations and lead to distinctive looks (if not other traits) that centuries later are still recognized as being “that Arilethnan look.” One refugee from the scattering of the elves is the subject of a story I’m planning that is set in a post-industrial “modern” era on this world. Off-world, Kes, the protagonist of Splintegrate (science fiction; forthcoming) is descended from such a bloodline, and her exotic beauty is comment-worthy even on a planet far removed in time and space from Àstareth.
Map #3. Hand-Drawn Map of Tura-kem
Tura-kem is the land across the inland bay from the Duchy of Nimm. This is the hand-drawn map of that area that I made for my rpg campaign as Thengel et al went questing across the sea that divides these two realms. When I began to write Truthsayer (which is inspired by that rpg campaign, as the dedication notes), I used this map to refer to for locations, travel distances, and so on. I sent this to my publisher, and they reproduced this in a slicker ‘artistic’ version that appears in that novel.
The terrain-marking style you see here is my now decades-old habit copied from or inspired by old terrain maps from the 19th century. This version is much simpler, of course, than those engraved maps I used to study with fascination, but I particularly liked how the use of the short hash-mark-like lines can indicate the folds and rises of mountains or rough terrain in a way that continuous drawn lines do not. That’s why I started to use this style, and still do for certain types of hand-sketching of maps.
That’s it for the overview of Koristan maps for now. If you want to keep up on updates on this kind of material, please join my mailing list and you’ll get the inside scoop.