Spotlight on Design 18 – Stronghold Crusader Design – Deserts and Oases

To make a natural and flowing desert in Stronghold Crusader is harder than it looks; often they are monotonous, only interrupted by a harsh piece of map design. The tips and screenshots below should give some help to turn your Crusader deserts into realistic and natural wastelands.

Adding basic vegetation is one technique to give life to a desert; in this screenshot I have laid down earth and stones and mixed in areas of scrub and various cacti.

However if you want your deserts to be really barren of all vegetation rocks can be an excellent substitution. A mixture of boulders and rocks with gaps filled in with driven sand gives a very dry look indeed. The rocks look better in groups rather than just randomly dotted around.

This third screenshot shows how a desert can be transformed by raising up land; this is hard to get right but can look very effective if you use rocks and vegetation carefully. However raising the land cuts down your design options as scrub, earth and stones cannot be used.

Even with a desert covered in scrub or rocks a larger piece of map design is good to break the repetitive trend. This screenshot taken from Caesarea by Sulis shows how he has used a quarry backed up against a rocky mound to blend the quarry into the map design. Too may designers place areas of stone straight down onto the ground leaving them looking very bare and unnatural.

In this screenshot from the map Harlech Castle, Mandirigma has mixed large rocks into the iron mine to really bring the mine alive. The rocks mingle with the iron very well and it blends far better into the countryside.

The other main piece of map design a designer can add to break up a desert is an oasis. Below are screenshots showing a few oases and the way they blend into the desert.

This simple oasis by Krakindale in the map Copius’ Stronghold shows the essence of how an oasis can look. The scrub is thickest surrounding the pond and thins slowly as it gets further away from the pond. The trees are evenly spread although this oasis could be improved with some other vegetation spread evenly around.

Taken from NAT’s map Shadowlands the oasis here is more detailed with trees around the middle but other vegetation covering the area. Again the scrub thins as it gets away from the water source, but the shape is less structured and circular than the previous oasis.

The final screenshot is from Defence of the East by Sulis and shows a much larger oasis. The vegetation is more randomly spread out but the trend of more trees and plants closer in continues.

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