Fantastic Maps & How to Make Them: Filling in the Gaps

Fantastic Maps & How to Make Them: Filling in the Gaps

An instructional, in-depth look into the worlds of fantasy cartography.
By Craig Simpson    Twitter

Hello again my friends, I hope that last week’s article about towns and cities helped with your design ideas. This week I will be covering how to join those areas up and what to think about when doing so.

It might sound like a very easy and thoughtless process to some, but by making roads and footpaths actually adds an element that some may overlook. For example, if you had five villages and a city, the likeliness of all six being connected to each other is relatively slim. So, what do you do? Well I would think about trade routes and accessibility. The next step would be to consider how and why certain towns/villages/cities are or are not connected. It is quite interesting to think about Rome when making roads, the phrase ‘all roads lead to Rome’ is incorrect and it is actually ‘all roads lead from Rome’. We know this because of various stones that are marked out at every mile (which is where the term milestone comes from). Once you were a mile out of Rome, you would see a stone with ‘I’, 2 miles ‘II’ etc. The reason this is relevant is because it shows how the Romans built from the centre – out. When it comes to drawing your roads, maybe experiment with this information. Your capital is important and by adding this kind of flavor, you can give your players an idea of the mindset the ruler has.

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In the above image I have outlined a simple arrangement of the six settlements. My next thought was that it would be beneficial for each of the villages to be connected to the city, the reason for this is that most of the items that you cannot aquire from your own village are highly likely to be available at the city (compared to the other villages). By doing an arrangement like this, you’re actually giving your players interesting choices too. Say that your players are at village A and they want to get to village B, they have two options. The first option is that they take the ‘main road’ to the city and then to the other village, it might be time/resource consuming, but they would be able to use a cart safely and it would save a lot of energy. However, if they decided to walk from A to B directly, it might be half the distance, but they are more likely to come across an encounter of some kind.

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So this next image is an alternative where there is only one way into and out of the city. Maybe the capital has come under attack a lot over the years and needed to protect themselves better. The point being that the two images convey very different ideas and it is worth thinking about when you create your maps.

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With the next image, I have tried to show you that some of the natural terrain can also play to your advantage. With the village that is blocked off by the river, you can now make it accessible by adding a bridge. You can also add a footpath that leads into and out of a forest which gives your players more options and gives you a chance to use different encounters or NPCs. It also gives you a chance to create a butterfly effect, where the decision to take a certain route has an effect later in the game. Try not to give your players the option of a linear road too often. It might also be useful to check out Stryder’s article on how to make travelling more exciting here.

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In this final image, I have added roads and footpaths from my previous article. This should help you see how to apply this technique in context.

I hope this has given you a good insight as to how to work roads and footpaths into your map! Until next week – Carpe Geekum!

– Craig

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