Locating Tamoachan in Greyhawk

Author: DHBoggs /

 Tamoachan - where is it?

The subject here was first posted on on Flanaess Geography Society on Facebook, but I know not everyone reads that and as with most social media, posts soon get buried and lost which is one reason I never bothered with the muck that was Google Plus or that twit site.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is a classic adventure that was groundbreaking in that it showcased Mesoamerican culture in a fantasy setting.  The principal author, Harold Johnson, initially intended the module to be on some version of Earth, but Gary Gygax decided to incorporate it into Oerth - the world of Greyhawk.

In the introduction to the 1981 module it tells us, "Tamoachan lays south of the Olman Islands and southeast of the Holds of the Sea Princes."

Fine, but there are hundreds of miles of land meeting that criterion. We've also got coordinates in the World of Greyhawk, but those indicate the very bottom hex of the map as if to say its somewhere down there but we ran out of map. 

A couple years ago the original principal author, Harold Johnson graced the gaming community with a new version, Return to Tamoanchan - spelled with an additional n as he had originally intended it to be.

This product has a beautiful area map showing exactly where Johnson means for Tamoanchan to be in relation to the coast and sea. There are no Greyhawk references in his Tamoanchan, but that is of no consequence for our purposes.  We can simply line up the coast of his map with the right spot on the Greyhawk map and bingo.

Except, of course, it's never that simple, is it?

First, as mentioned, the exact location on the Darlene map of the World of Greyhawk is a bit fuzzy. The Greyhawk Glossography places the Shrine at hex A4-137 on the Darlene map - which is a half hex at the bottom.  

Anna B. Meyers's maps of the Flanaess combine a lot of research and references and cover more territory to the south, including a location for Tamoachan at about the place indicated in the Glossography or maybe one hex to the west.  So we can conveniently start with Anna's map and match it with Johnson's.

However there is an issue. The new map in Return to Tamoanchan shows a 10 mile per square scale. Tamaoanchan is situated on the map about 32-34 squares south of the coast. That is a whoping 320 to 340 miles in. That's further than the distance between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for example, and almost the distance between London and Glasgow. It's a long ways.

Well, fine you say. If that's where Johnson wants it, that's where it is. Except, in the text Johnson writes "The dense Jungle is difficult terrain and movement is very slow. From the coast to the ruins will take 7 days of travel." p4.

That makes complete sense, and is surely exactly what he intended for the location.

Breaking out the old abacus, 7 days of travel at the minimum distance of 320 miles gives us a travel rate of 45 miles per day. Forty-five miles a day is decidedly not very slow, in fact, it is impossibly fast for a jungle excursion. A lightly equipped group walking all day in good clear weather and on very good roads might be able to manage 45 miles, but certainly not an adventure outfitted, armored party trying to fight and navigate their way through dense rain forest.

Another issue with the 10 mile square is that if you overlay the Tamoanchan map onto Anna's Greyhawk hexmap at that scale, the city of Tamoanchan ends up not far from the south coast of the Amedio - which makes no sense at all.

So I ignored the scale, or rather I rescaled the Return to Tamoanchan map so that one square equals only 2 miles. That makes 6 squares to one of Anna's 12 mile hexes.  If we reduce the scale to one square = 2 miles, then a 7 day journey across 32 squares gives just over 9 miles a day covering a total distance of 64 miles inland. That puts us squarely in line with the 10 miles per day given as the jungle travel rate the World of Greyhawk Gazeteer on page 4. Case closed.

So here is the fun part. Exactly where to align the two maps is a guessing game, and I tried a few different spots, but best seemed to align the "Return To Tamoanchan" city location on the same longitude Anna has the X for Tamoachan on her map. The results shown here have the relevant portions of the Return to Tamoachan map showing through Anna's map, with her X left in place for reference. One happy coincidence seems to be that Tamoanchan falls on what looks like a plateau on Anna's map and it is also on a plateau on the Tamoahchan map. 


paleologos said...

Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is such a classic. I posted my own thoughts on where to situate it on Mystara over at the Vaults of Pandius, here: http://www.pandius.com/tamochan.html

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