Fantastic Maps and How to Make Them – A Campaign Breakdown
An instructional, in-depth look into the worlds of fantasy cartography.
Hello and welcome to another issue of Fantastic Maps and How to Make Them. I hope you all enjoyed last week’s article on digitalizing your maps by Summer! This week I am going to go through a map that I have made and break down each part of the map for you.
So without further ado, here is the image of a map for a setting I called ‘The Det’. It does take place in a larger realm, which I will go through at another point.
There is a fair amount to take in at first glance, but I’ll slowly work my way through and guide you through these islands. The first thing I would like to bring to your attention are the symbols I have used for the towns/cities etc.
The small circles are used for villages. They are realatively spaced out because I wanted to show the players that it would take a long time to move from one of these villages to get to another area. Most of the villages only have footpaths leading out from them. The reason for this is to again show the struggle of moving between them to other places, you could have your players unable to use carts to gain entrance, making the journey tougher on them.
The next symbols are the circles that have a star-like symbol in the middle, these are for the towns of the area. Notice that I have put 2-4 smaller stars in symbols too, this is actually to represent the approximate population in 10,000s. You will also see that I have designed roads that move between towns to towns and towns to cities. This is because there will be a lot of need to travel quickly between the ‘more important’ areas.
Finally, there is an envelope shaped icon that shows you the cities (as you may have guessed). The dots on these icons indicate the size of the city in 100,000s. One of these has a crown above it to indicate it is the capital. It is also worth mentioning that I have more village than towns and more towns than cities.
Aside from the forests, mountains and the swamp, I would like to talk about some of the other smaller details. First of all, there is a mountain range that has a series of troll caves, which would make for a useful campaign hook, especially as it is close to the capital, a town and a village. I also added (from top to bottom) a large black tower, a ruin which I wrote as the previous capital to the campaign, a wizards tower, a citidel, a (known) dragon and a temple. Having a series of one-of-a-kinds like this will not only rouse interest, but make for great quests or dungeon crawls etc.
The next thing I would like to talk about is The Walled Ait. I wanted to make the place feel mysterious by not adding any information. The reason for this is that it is basically Alcatraz. There is one way in and no way out.
The final thing I would like to talk about is the compass. I had decided to use 4 symbols within the compass (each representing a character in the game) as a mythological element. Having these symbols pop up here and there might catch the player’s eyes after a while and start to question it’s importance.
That just about covers everything on the map, please feel free to use it in your campaign. Change and tweek it as you wish. I would love to see what you all do with it. Until next week – Carpe Geekum my friends.
– Craig Simpson