Many years ago I ran a campaign I referred to as “The Apocalypse Campaign,” set in a post-apocalyptic Europe in which the sea level had risen. This was back when A4 drawing tablets for a computer were hideously expensive, and scanners were expensive too. So to make my higher sea-level Britain, I photocopied pages from an atlas (A4 size), did some careful calculations of enlargement scales to get all the different-scaled maps up to the same A3 size, then carefully joined them together, traced them out onto a new, single huge piece of paper on a light table I found in an abandoned garage next to my house[1] (even light tables were quite expensive, I recall!) and then painted over the lines.

So I spent, obviously, a lot of time on this, and I came up with a quite fascinating piece of work in which England was broken into several significant islands drawn on a crappy map coloured by one of the worst artists the world has ever known (me). I had to flood the world by quite a bit – maybe 50m I think – to reproduce the effect I wanted, which was the beautiful world map from the White Bird of Kinship novels[5], and this took some work, and I think I used a bit of GM’s license in there too (it’s not like anyone was going to check, this was before the internet could host massive maps, so no silly nerd was going to come along and complain I had my contours wrong).

Today I discovered that this site, using google maps, can produce the whole effect in a few seconds. Not only that, it can give street-level detail of anywhere in the world, hardly a comfort if you live in Bangladesh or Amsterdam; but it did enable me to check the location of my own flat, and determine that with a 5m sea level rise I’ll be on water-front property! Any more, and I’ll be going uphill in a hurry.

Perfect material for post-environmental-apocalypse gaming, if only it showed values more extreme than 14m. Who cares about that? (Besides a couple of 100 million South Asians, and the entire Pacific Island diaspora).

fn1: an interesting story that. I went digging through that garage with my flatmate, who had written some excellent art theory articles about Bladerunner[2], and we discovered a box full of old documents. Sorting through this box, we discovered a bunch of jewish religious material and some schoolbooks from world war 2. We contacted the owner of the garage to tell them what we had found, and it turned out that the owner was my boss, and the school book pictures were some material from her own childhood that she had lost. I think her parents had been refugees from Germany, though I don’t recall that clearly. Anyway, we kept the light table.

fn2: The gist of them was, 1) that Roy Batty plays a role very similar to that of the Gnostic Redeemer, come to Earth to destroy his maker and to tell the people that the Earth is a trick created by Satan (or some such), and 2) that photo that Decker examines on his super-crash-hot computer[3] is a close simulacrum of some painting by a dutch master, which famously has the picture of the painter in the mirror; but in the Bladerunner version, there is nothing in the mirror, and the investigation of the photo is physically impossible. This serves to cause the reader to question their own humanity, whereas in the original painting the figure of the painter in the mirror is meant to restore your sense of self as a viewer, and remind you of the presence of a human creator. Or something[4]

fn3: I watched Bladerunner again 2 nights ago, and it’s interesting how in some ways the vision of future technology is really basic, such as the TV on which the photo is examined, but in other ways really advanced, such as when Decker directs a computer to do things with commands like “no wait! back up!”

fn4: They were actually really good, but after 15 years the details are a bit blurry.

fn5: Which I recommend, strongly