Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mount Thor–the world’s tallest vertical drop

There are times when the landscapes in movies, art, or games give me the feeling that the artists and animators had too much time on their hands.  “Come on,” I think, “look at those ridiculous mountains.  Real mountains are impressive enough, why make them so unrealistic?”  And then you see something from our very own world that makes you realise that those images aren’t so fanciful after all.

Mount Thor on Baffin Island (part of Nunavut in Canada) is a 1675m (~5500ft) granite peak that features the world’s tallest purely vertical drop.  At an average angle of 105 degrees, it is more than simply vertical – it is an overhang.  It cuts into the air like a mighty hooked thorn or knife, towering over the broad glacial valley below.

Mount Thor, viewed from the north (I believe)

Again, viewed from the north.  Note that the figures in the foreground are considerably closer to the camera than the mountain is.

Viewed from the south

Further back to the north, Nana Peak in the foreground.

The vertical drop totals some 1250m (4100ft).  Put in context, the Eiffel Tower is 324m, the Empire State Building is 381m, the CN Tower is 553m, and the Burj Khalifa 828m.

A magnificent prominence in a remote location, a wonderful setting for a game.  It would be a real challenge to bring the full sensation of this mountain to the table.  How do you make the players feel like they are under its shadow, or perched atop the peak?  Are words enough, or would it need pictures, or perhaps even a model?  If you put a 70cm tall clay model of the mountain on the table, then at that scale a 6ft tall character would be about 1mm.  Alternatively, if you’re playing with 28mm scale miniatures, Mount Thor’s drop is a little over 19m (64ft) tall – something like an eight-storey building.

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