Learning Photoshop: Day 11 – Parchment

Today I went with a much less complicated tutorial, but one I can use as a base for upcoming projects.  How to make an old fashioned stained piece of parchment paper.  The tutorial can be found here.

My results?


Yeah, not overly impressive at first glance, but it definitely does what is needed and the same technique can be used to create water spots and other stains in different colors.  It looks like it might also be effective at creating things like rust and mold.

Now, when added to the file generated yesterday, we get:


And that’s definitely starting to look like something I wouldn’t mind having on a dust jacket of a book.  All together with my meager Photoshop skills, I’m looking at about four hours of work.  And that’s total, from finding the tutorial to generating the above.  Now imagine it with some time and care added, and you could definitely end up with something great.


Learning Photoshop: Day 10 – Map

Alright, for this tutorial, I decided to make the map for a story that will be written soon, possibly for this year’s Nanowrimo.  I am using the tutorial found here –

And yeah, it’s a big one.  Because I haven’t quite finished laying out the story yet, I did not complete this tutorial.  I only did videos one through six, so there are no political lines on my map.

My results?


I am happy-ish with the land.  I hate the ocean and find it looks way too busy.  I’ll probably fiddle with it and get rid of a lot of the cloud render.  Maybe run it through the cutout filter or something to create depth lines.

There is a written version of the tutorial, but it’s hard to follow on the screen and really is the type of instructional manual where you have to cross off steps as you complete them or you will get mixed up.


The people of Uhses tend to be on the smaller side, averaging 5’4” for men.  They have dark hair and dark, slanted eyes, and their skin has golden undertones.

Uhses itself is lushly forested, almost a jungle.  It is poor in metal recourses, but there is sufficient stone that the people of Uhses have built graceful cities inside the forests, often cultivating the trees to serve as living bridges and walkways within the structures.
Silk originates in Uhses, and is traded to Sahit or the Ilael.  The people of Uhses are quite welcoming to the Ilael, as most of their trade goes through them and they make each other quite wealthy.

They have a complex religion, believing that their gods from time to time take mortal form or provide a divine touch to mortal agents.  Displeasing these individuals can result in an entire family being cursed with bad luck for generations, and the reverse is also true.  Thus the people of Uhses are generally very polite to strangers.  They do not practice sacred hospitality exactly, they are just very welcoming and generous to guests.  And, as a side bonus, it means they get to hear news and stories from their guests, and guests are expected to provide at least one good tale to repay their hosts.  It is also fairly customary for guests to provide assistance, and a lot of the Uhses economy seems to revolve around cooking a huge meal and then having your neighbors come over to help fix a roof or slaughter the pigs.

Though they do trade and have a monetary system, most of their economy runs on a barter system.  They take care of their elders, and the elders in turn take over the responsibility of teaching the children their lore and stories.

Ritual and tribal tattoos are common, and their tattoos tell stories.  Those who have committed crimes have their sins forcibly tattooed upon them to serve as warnings to others.  In practice, this often functions as effective exile.

Those that dwell along the coast are fishermen, and they do venture out into the deeper parts of the ocean to go whaling.  Typically though, they leave the trade to the Ilael, as few of the Uhsi speak any language but their own or that of Sahit.  Their written language is written as slashes upon a line, and is often written spiraling outward or carved round and round upon a stick.  They often carve lines of poetry into their spears and walking sticks.


The desert badlands of Sahit exist as neighbors to the lush greenery of Uhses, but the nations are surprisingly cordial to each other.  Most cities in Sahit are centered around an oasis, and there are areas of surprisingly green beauty hidden among the wastes.

By necessity, they practice sacred hospitality and it is nigh absolute.  If you are a guest, you are treated as family until you leave.  However, once you leave, then it can quite easily be open season upon you, and the Sahit have a lot of creatively painful ways of dealing with their enemies.  If nothing else, they can always just take them out to the desert and leave them several days out stark naked with no supplies.

Sahit’s deserts range from shifting sands to volcanic glass.  Most would consider such a place completely inhospitable if not fatal.  And within, the Sahit thrive.  They can be a harsh and unforgiving people, much like their land, but they can also be steadfast, loyal, and generous friends, also much like their land.

Poetry and art are well valued in Sahit, and story-tellers are prized.  Nomads travel from oasis to oasis, bringing trade and news, and are warmly welcomed.  Those that violate sacred hospitality are dealt with swiftly and harshly.  Most crime in Sahit carries with it the threat of brutal reprisal, as there are simply not enough resources to tolerate such behavior.  Steal a man’s water or horse, and you condemn him to death.  The most mild punishment for theft is the removal of a hand.  Wasting water is a crime, and fouling water is punished via death by slow torture.

They are fairly dark skinned, and dress in long, flowing robes and scarves to protect them from the sun and the common sand storms.

Their common exports are porcelain and glass, and they are known for their beautiful pottery.  Due to the volcanoes in the southern part of their country, they also export gemstones.  Despite their harsh land, they are a fairly self-reliant people and mostly important things that interest them rather than necessities.  The Ilael vary what they bring in to Sahit, but have learned they can rarely go wrong with luxury items like books, honey, items made from rarer woods, and spices.

Religion in Sahit is monotheistic.  Their god is called Sah, and they pay homage to him daily.  An offering of food is made at each meal, often the choicest pieces, and their religion governs most of their daily lives.  Their king is a hereditary monarch that also serves as the head of their religion, though they do not consider their king to be divine.

They have their own written and spoken languages, and few among them speak the ‘common tongue’ due to how rarely they interact with people other than the Ilael and the Uhses, both of whom speak Sahit when dealing with them.


The people of Tebotas are nearly as dark skinned as the Ilael, and there are stories that say that Tebota either originated when some of the Ilael took to land, or Ilael originated when some of the Tebota took to the sea.  Ilael reject those legends, while Tebota find them amusing.

Tebota practice slavery, raiding into other lands.  However, they will allow their captives to be ransomed back to their people, and often take prisoners for the express purpose of ransoming them rather than using them as slaves.

Tebotas is a large country comprised of forest, grassland, and mountains, and is divided into sections ruled by governors that answer to their emperor.  Their emperor is considered a living god, ruling with divine right, and his authority is not to be questioned.  However, many emperors meet their end via assassination, so its not always clear how seriously Tebota take that belief.

The family unit is of supreme importance, with each family being ruled by it’s patriarch.  Children answer to their fathers regardless of their age, save that wives answer to their husbands, but a patriarch’s authority over their own family is close to absolute.  Arranged marriages and dowries are common, and often neither the husband nor wife have a say in who they marry.  Matchmakers are used to facilitate such arrangements.  Concubines are also common.  The eldest son inherits, but sometimes someone else is adopted as ‘eldest son’ despite being younger or not related to the actual eldest son.

Their language is rich and complex, but only the upper castes can read or write.  Their governing system is largely bureaucratic, and the ability to read or write can serve to make someone fairly powerful.  The caste system is strict, but there is mobility between the castes.

Honor is an important concept, but related strongly to pride.  It’s okay to lie and cheat and steal, but it’s incredibly unseemly to be caught doing so, and very rude to call someone out on it unless you have considerable proof.  A family member who brings dishonor to their kin is often executed by their own family to save face.  This is a safety measure, as entire families can be executed for the action of one member, or even for the actions of a friend of one member.

Ancestor worship is the primary religion of Tebotas.  They are a rather xenophobic people.  If you are in Tebotas and not Tebota, then you are either a slave or trespassing and if the latter, you may very well find yourself the former.  Even slaves are not allowed inside their actual cities, and are used as farm labor or pleasure slaves in brothels built outside the city walls.

Many ceremonies and rituals are practiced in their daily lives, and it is possible to go through your life in Tebotas interacting with people only via said ceremonies and rituals.


Some would consider Ocia to be made up of two people.  Those that dwell in the grasslands, and those that dwell in the swamp.  While there are cultural differences between them, they are all ruled by the same king and queen and consider themselves one people.
The swamp dwellers are hunters and gatherers, living in small, semi-nomadic towns that are made up of barges.  The people of the grasslands have actual towns and villages, and lead more settled lives with farms and livestock.  The lives of both peoples seem to center around the river and its tributaries, and they trade up and down the waterways via poled rafts.

They are dark skinned, and both the men and women wear their hair long and braided.  Face paint is common among both genders, but the women wear brighter and more intricate patterns.  Certain patterns indicate status, such as whether a woman is looking for marriage.  Marriage in Ocia is a very formal affair, with many courtship rituals and a long engagement period.  It’s not uncommon for a couple to have multiple children together before they are finally wed, and there is no such thing as divorce.  A couple joined is together in this life and the next.

Ocia does not have gods, but each person has a totem or animal spirit with which they identify, and that animal spirit is their link and guide between this world and the other world to which they journey after death.  The village shaman gives a child their totem upon that child’s first birthday.

Names are strange in Ocia.  A child has a name when born, usually a very short, single syllable name, then is given a name by their totem on their first birthday.  They gain an additional name upon reaching puberty, and then pick a name for themselves upon reaching adulthood.  Married couples aid their spouses totem name to their own totem name.  Additionally, Ocia can be given what are called ‘legend names’ by their shaman, related to either some trait of theirs or a deed they have accomplished.  Introductions are thus usually long and careful affairs, because getting an Ocian’s name wrong is considered very insulting.  However, once introductions are made, most Ocia go by their most recently acquired name save in the case of legend names.  If a person’s adult name is Kiran, they would go by Kiran, but if they had a legend name they might go by Kiran Whitespear.  His full name might be Jai Mahesh-Aarti Nirav Kiran Whitespear.

They value combat ability, but tricksters hold a special place in their hearts.  A person who can fight is respected, but a person who can avoid fighting by being clever is to be admired.  A person who can trick their opponent into becoming an ally or defeating themselves is legendary.  They are also known for their sense of humor, and the best way to tell if an Ocian is your friend is if they start playing pranks on you.  Being able to take a joke is a good way to earn their respect, but being able to turn it back on the one who made it is even better.

Ocia has it’s own language, both written and spoken.  Those that trade usually speak the ‘common tongue’.


The people of Natiel are a bit darker in skin tone than those to the east or north.  They live mostly in the grasslands.  Though they have cities, many of them are still semi-nomadic in nature.  They are a prickly people with a lot of customs and taboos that seem to make sense only to them.  A lot of them seem rooted in superstition, such as it is taboo to eat fish when it is raining.  They rarely offer explanations beyond ‘it is taboo’ or ‘it is not the custom’ for why they behave the way they do.

If you respect their ways, and at least make a good faith effort to follow their customs and taboos while among them, they are a friendly enough people and can be very generous hosts.  In theory they practice sacred hospitality, however there are enough customs and taboos around this practice that it can be hard to tell, and they don’t do a particularly good job of communicating what violations can result in the revocation of hospitality.  Drinking wine before your host revokes your guest right.  Seducing your host’s spouse does not.

They read portents and omens in many things, from the flight of birds to the way a leaf lands when it falls from a tree.  Their gods are nature related, and chief among them is a sky goddess, who embodies both good and bad weather.  They worship them, but seem resigned to the fact that they have little influence over the whims of their gods.  The music of Natiel is heavy on flute and drums, and tribes commonly gather together in the evenings to play.

Their river god serves them also as a god of war, and from time to time he commands them to invade other countries.  They attack their neighbors and either win or lose a chunk of territory, then the ‘war’ ends as quickly as it begins and they go back to their lives.  The motive seems to involve a pattern of the weather, and their times of war usually coincide with when the water level in the river gets low.

Though their clothing is very modest and they tend to wear garb that covers them from head to toe when going about their business outside their homes, they don’t actually have a nudity taboo.  It’s not uncommon for them to strip down as soon as they enter their homes.  Their clothing serves the primary purpose of protecting them from the high winds and hot sun.

Most Natiel arm themselves with spears, and do not leave their cities unless they are armed.  Lions are common on their plains, among other dangers.  They associate fire strongly with death, as a fire through the tall grass can whip out an entire tribe in minutes.  They clear swaths of grass around their cities and villages in efforts to prevent this, and some settlements even have actual moats.  They have a lot of rituals around fire, from leaping bonfires to practicing ritual fire walking to even, on admittedly very rare occasions, burning someone alive as a sacrificial offering.

Forests are present on some of their borders, but they are just as superstitious about trees as they are about other things.  The forest between them and Petobae is said to be full of demons.  How accurate that may be is a subject for debate, but it is worth noting that the Horsemen of Petobae also tend to avoid those particular woods.


Lethiun is a small and fairly poor country.  The past century has seen them suffer from plague, famine, and drought.  It’s people have survived and are slowly rebuilding, but life in Lethiun is still difficult.  It’s not uncommon for poor families in Lethiun to have extra children with the intention of selling one or two to Manisar to support the rest of the family.

If it was not insulated from Thatela by Ipruci, it probably wouldn’t be a country of its own anymore at all.  It’s people are farmers and shepherds, and their chief export is cloth.  Lethiun tapestries and carpets are highly prized.

While they had their own language, it is slowly being lost as most of them come to speak the common tongue.  They worshiped a mother goddess that they viewed as the embodiment of nature, but that too is slowly being replaced by the temple of the three gods.


There is some question as to whether Gaebli even still is an independent nation. The last generation of their royal family produced only daughters, and the current queen married the younger son of Thatela’s royal family.  Then the elder son died childless, sending the king-consort of Gaebli back to Thatela to serve as Thatela’s king.  Their son is thus heir to both nations.  There is a fair amount of grumbling over that fact.

However, it is not as though they actually have enough of a military do much about it, and they tend to be a fairly fatalistic people.  The island nation has little in the way of natural metal resources, and while its ships do trade along the coast they have few deep sea vessels.  They raise goats and farm, as well as fish and dive for pearls in the reefs around the island.

While they follow the same religion as Thatela, the people of Gaebli tend to be much more superstitious.  They have a variety of little rituals and offerings to entice or placate spirits, and homes keep a hearthfire burning to keep their house spirits happy.


The people of Jolusth are mainly forest dwellers, and build their homes in trees.  Those that dwell in the grasslands are nomadic shepherds tied to various other villages.  Their settlements are small, and they are somewhat tribal in nature.  They are prone to squabbling among themselves, but if an outside threat manifests they quickly band together to deal with it before going back to squabbling among themselves.

The entirety of Jolusth serves as an army.  The rest of the world considers them dirty fighters, as they do not fight along traditional lines.  They melt away into their forests and fight with tactics more like those of bandits.  Traps and other such hazards are common, and the Jolusth have no compunctions about using poisoned arrows and other such ‘uncivil’ methods.  Their neighbors mostly leave them alone because fighting the Jolusth is considered way more trouble than it is actually worth.

Jolus worship forest spirits, and it’s known that fighting Jolus in the woods is pretty much suicidal.  Some say they can actually bring trees to life and command animals to fight for them.  The latter part is true enough, as Jolus tribes often have wolf packs that live harmoniously with them.

They have a fairly good relationship with Petobae, however, and the two countries trade along their border amicably.  Culturally, neither really has anything the other nation wants, and that oddly enough helps them get along.

There are safe passages through the forests where traders and travelers can pass unmolested, but the Jolus tend to be hostile toward those who enter their territory without invitation.

As a people, Jolus are on the small side, with the average height of a man being 5’6”.  Their eyes, skin, and hair tend to the darker shades.  As forest dwellers, they typically dress in greens and browns.  Jolus practice ritual tattooing, and upon reaching adulthood receive clan tattoos.  The Jolus are excellent climbers, and can travel through the forest swiftly without actually having to touch the ground.

Though they do not care for outsiders, the Jolus do on occasion extend hospitality.  Those that prove themselves worthy can be invited to join a tribe, and are given a clan tattoo.  To their own, they are generous and welcoming.


Thatela considers itself the pinnacle of civilization.  It’s not an entirely unreasonable claim, though they are not the oldest nation.  They are a fairly wealthy nation in which all citizens are arguably free, and place a high emphasis on art and learning.  Most citizens of Thatela are literate, and there are actual schools, though those are typically only available to those who can afford them.

The language that serves the world as a ‘common tongue’ is called Thatel and Thatelans claim it as theirs, though in truth it originated from the language spoken by the Wilders when they conquered.  Thatelans claim that is irrelevant, as these days they speak it so very much better than the Wilders do.

They are a proud people, bordering on arrogant, and are one of the strongest and most stable nations.  Many consider Solsthriem, Ipruci, and Gaebli as merely ‘provinces’ of Thatela rather than separate nations, and some decades that is a fairly credible claim.  Gaebli and Ipruci don’t always bother to refute the idea, though Solsthriem can get quite prickly over the matter.

It was the birthplace of the spires and the formal education of Magi.  Magic being rare, Thatela manages to have more actual mages than almost all other countries combined.  This contributes heavily to their overall strength and wealth.

Their religion is the worship of the three gods.  The sun is strongly associated with the Father, who is the strongest of the gods to the point that to some it is almost monotheistic.  The other two gods are the Keeper and the Paladin.  The Keeper is often represented as a mother figure, and is associated with both birth and death.  The Paladin is the god of war and honor and usually represented as a knight who serves as the Father’s agent rather than being worshiped in his own right.  The temple in Thatela is fairly powerful, and serves as a patron of the arts.  It is led by a High Priest, who serves the ruler of Thatela as an adviser.  The High Priest in theory answers to the King, but it is also the High Priest who crowns the king.

It is a patriarchal society, though from time to time it has had a ruling queen.  Thatelans have a strong since of propriety and some say they are too easily offended.  The nobles play the game of houses among each other, vying for standing and power, and peasants often suffer as a result.  Slavery is illegal in Thatela, but the difference between a servant/serf and a slave is often a matter of pure semantics.

Thatela was once a much larger country that included what is now Gaebli, Ipruci, and Solsthriem.  Ipruci split from Thatela five hundred years ago when Thatela’s royal line failed resulting in there being an argument over which cousin would assume the throne.  The one that ended up ruling Thatela had the stronger claim, but the one that Ipruci rebelled behind was the more popular leader.  His influence was sufficient that the then-province simply split off, and the king of Thatela was unable to muster sufficient resources to reclaim them.  Gaebli took advantage of that chaos to split off as well, though in many ways never fully broke from Thatela.

The War of Two Kings broke out two centuries ago when the royal family gave birth to twin sons.  Deniel was said to be the eldest and was to assume the throne, but manipulations occurred and the High Priest chose to crown his brother Alessio instead.  The result was a rebellion, and the eventual splitting off of Solsthriem.  Unlike Gaebli and Ipruci, Solsthriem has insisted on being completely independent, something that continues to irk Thatela.

Slowly, Thatela is moving away from its more feudal origins, and in so doing is growing stronger.  Gaebli is all but fully part of Thatela once more, and Ipruci is also moving in that direction.  Once that occurs, Thatela will be the strongest nation by far unless the Wilders ever unite again.


Akobul has a decent sized desert in it, and yet still managed to be one of the most fertile regions of Tallis.  It’s people are mainly farmers, and they are among the few that actually trade with the Wilders.  Wilder raids are a normal occurrence for them, and they take the matter rather in stride.  The villages hit most often usually offer no more than a token defense and then just let the Wilders take what they want.  Or simply pay the Wilders off, usually with kegs of booze.  Its not unheard of for Wilders to sleep off a ‘raid’ in the very village they ‘raided’.  In return, the Wilders tend not to do infrastructure damage, take Akobul people as slaves, kill them, or even take too much from them.  And as the people of the Unitafels and Natiel have both learned, the Wilders are also willing to come to Akobul’s defense.  They may raid Akobul, but they deeply resent any one else trying to.

Despite the raids, the relationship between the Wilders and Akobul is actually fairly good.  Not quite twenty years ago, an Unitafels clan came into Akobul and took two villages full of people with the intention of sacrificing them all.  Akobul entreated to the Wilders for aid, and in response both the Stone Dragon and the Phoenix came over the mountains with an army of Wilders.  They saved most of the villagers and dealt with the Unitafels tribe, preventing whatever dark ritual was intended.

They are known to be a pragmatic people, as their interactions with the Wilders would indicate.  While villages have sheriffs and militias, Akobul doesn’t have much of an army.  They don’t need one, as they can either pay Wilders or Petobae to defend them.

Akobul is lead by a council of three.  The first councilor is an inherited position, the second trains and chooses their successor, and the third is elected by the mayors of the villages, who are themselves elected.  The second councilor is always capable of magic, and is considered the leader of Akobul’s religion.

The land is known for its foodstuffs and its wine and beer.  Their primary export is food of various kinds.


The people of Petobae are often just called horsemen.  Their army is almost entirely made up of cavalry and archers, thus even though they are a smaller nation they are treated with considerable respect.  Petobae’s horses are considered the finest in the world, though they are not often exported.  Even their religion is centered around horses, as in their belief system they were all once centaur like beings until the gods separated man from horse.  Thus, to the Petobae, horses are not pets or servants, but brothers.  There are those that make crude remarks about just how close the Petobae are to their horses.  The people of Petobae call their typical reaction to such remarks ‘justified homicide’.

They control the land that connects Manisar to the rest of the continent.  And they are the reason Manisar does its trade via coastal ships.  The relationship between the two nations is hostile at the best of times.  While most countries that outlaw slavery still often turn a blind eye to the practice, Petobae does not tolerate slavery within its borders.  Those attempting to smuggle slaves through their lands are flayed alive before being crucified, and their slaves are given the option of being escorted to the border or taken in by the Petobae and adopting their culture.  Many take the latter option, making the people of Petobae rather diverse in appearance.

Despite their affinity for horses, they are not nomadic.  Petobae build well-fortified cities, and train both male and female children with blade and bow.  Their armor is usually leather with a metal breastplate and greaves, allowing them to be decently fortified but still mobile.  They do make some use of chariots in combat.

While they are good at war, they are not generally aggressive.  They are known for their poetry, and in Petobae if you can spin a good story or better yet sing, you will receive a warm welcome.  They practice sacred hospitality and are generally fairly nice people, but it’s best to remember that that their enemies have a tendency to end up impaled on the spikes that ring their villages, if not worse.

Marriage in Petobae is a somewhat complicated affair.  While monogamous life pairings are normal and such people call each other their ‘bond mates’, marriage is a group affair.  It has nothing to do with who you sleep with, but rather with which children you are responsible for tending and training.  Occasionally large families split apart, and smaller ones join together.  Outsiders taken in are usually married into whatever family they are considered to suit best, as trades and other skills are typically family affairs.  Bond-mates are usually also married, but that is not always the case, a fact outsiders often find very confusing.

Children are raised communally, with the older children being raised right alongside the horse that will be theirs upon reaching adulthood.  There are no orphans in Petobae.  In the off chance a child’s entire family unit dies or there is a foundling, they are taken in by the mayor’s family and considered no different from any other in that family unity.  Outsiders occasionally have difficulty telling which child belongs with which mother/father.  At meal time, the people of Petobae feed whichever children happen to be in their homes at the time, and children think little of sleeping at the home of a friend or just bedding down wherever they happen to be when night falls.  Anyone harming a child is dealt with swiftly by any and everyone in the vicinity.

Their society is fairly egalitarian, and though they do have a royal line their culture is also somewhat democratic.  Mayors and other local leaders are voted into office.  Each village has a wise one to serve the mayor as an adviser, and some wise ones are hedge-witches capable of minor magic.  Wise ones choose and train their apprentices.