Fantastic Maps & How to Make Them

Fantastic Maps & How to Make Them

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

Hello again! I hope you enjoyed last week’s article where we talked about how to make mountains and rivers. We also covered some of the science behind the formation and the history that it includes. This week we will be discussing the Rose Compass and various designs you can use.

So to begin with, what is a Rose Compass? Well it is just the compass that appears on a map, normally placed on the bottom right, but not always. There are a few reasons you want this on your map. First of all, it indicates the direction between cities to cities or islands to islands and so on. This is useful from a storytelling perspective because you can inform the players what direction they are travelling in and having a solid point of reference.

The next reason you want a Rose Compass on your map is more aesthetical. Your map will look far more complete and polished with this inclusion. Over the years, a lot of cartologists have made extremely elaborate compasses in their maps. Every time I step foot into a museum, I am always looking for a map (no, not because I have a poor sense of direction). Each map is unique in it’s own way and there are so many styles that I find myself being inspired in new ways every time.

The other thing that really makes a map stand out is the title, this can be done very simply or extremely elaborate. I will go into more detail about this aspect next week.

Without further ado, here is the most simple way to put a compass on a map. The arrow just points north. Very simple, but it does exactly what you need it to.

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The example here is the next level. It has a basic compass figure that most people are accustomed to seeing. It clearly indicates each direction and your players will understand what is where.

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Slightly more complex, this Rose Compass has a lot more flavour. You can begin to understand a bit more of the realm by including some interesting designs.

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Finally, this last image should give you a great idea of the different styles you can use in your Rose Compasses. As a side note, I actually included elements of a prophecy in one map I created, bonding your map in with the history of your realm is very useful. Not only will players get the feel of realism, but they will also get a small nugget of information. Be sure to prepare for this information because you know how inquisitive players can get!

I hope this hopes with your on going designs. If anyone needs any tips, feel free to either comment below or tweet me @cragusmaximuspm. I am always happy to lend a hand! As mentioned earlier, we talked about mountains and rivers. I put a poll up on Twitter a couple of days ago and the response was incredible, thank you so much for all that participated.

Here is a breakdown of each winner:

Winning Lake: The Black Lake

Winning River: River Starr

Winning Mountain: Mt Hef

Next week I will talk about the ways to include a title in your map and I might throw some extra bits in too depending on the word count! I will put another poll up with a few Rose Compass ideas to add to the map. We have nearly covered most of the initial elements of cartography, so we will be zooming in soon and start looking at towns/cities/roads and everything else inbetween. Happy drawing my friends and as always, Carpe Geekum!

– Craig

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