Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mapping Question

I wrote several posts on mapping; tutorials and tips. After reading James Mal of Grognardia frustration over mapping here. I wanted to get some feedback for future posts.

To me mapmaking is both art and science. The science is cartography and geography, the art is painting and drawing. It possible to emphasize one side too much with the result being not much of a map.

I am not much of a raw artist. I have limited abilities in painting or drawing. However thanks to my geography minor in college and a general interest in the subject I think I got a good handle on the cartography. I know a lot of you like maps. My trick is picking the map styles that allows me to use my limited artistic abilities to the fullest.

I think with a few basic rules that anybody can draw decent maps. Event distinctive ones that look nice. But it is a pretty broad subject so I could some feedback on what you guys need help with or like to see next.

11 comments:

Mark said...

For me what makes for a good map is hard to quantify. It's not so much that the map be "realistic" but rather that it be "atmospheric" or suggestive or dramatic. If you have any ideas on this, I'd love to read about them. There are realistic maps that have this quality, of course, just as there are realistic maps that are b-o-r-i-n-g. If you've ever seen the map boards for the game "Runebound," to me those are great maps, and Greyhawk is a well-deserved classic. The Harn maps never did much for me. Nor did the Earth Dawn or Forgotten Realms. When it come to dungeon maps, the issue is even more complicated. I'd say that *most* dungeon maps are boring. Anyway, my brain must be responding to some difference, but I don't know what.

Bonemaster said...

Maps are an issue to me. I found that many of the more "Modern" maps in RPG tend to be more Art than Cartographic. I'm sorry but if the map looks like it should be in an Art house instead of being used in my gaming session, then there is a problem. I don't care if a map is monochromatic as long as it's clear and easily readable. I guess that's at the heart of my problems with current maps in many RPG products. They quite simply are not clear. That's not to say btw that older products' maps didn't have issues, they did but being readable usually wasn't one of them.

Tregenza said...

I agree with Bonemaster.

Too many maps are done to 'look good' rather than to present information.

The first job of a map is to tell the GM where everything is, quickly and efficiently. Everything else is a secondary.

For our published adventures I'm going for an extremely basic style. This fits in with the rest of the module which is formatted in a minimalist fashion. I'm fed up of adventures with lots of black borders and pointless artwork that make text unreadable and bumps up production costs.

(Puts away soapbox)

Juampa said...

I love mapmaking, and I believe maps play a very important role in RPGs. A good map helps to imagine the same world/city/dungeon across the table.

They first map that draw my attention was Tolkien's Middle Earth. I found it very evocative, as if Bilbo had drawn it himself.

However, I'd expect a little more detail for a gaming map. The Points of Light maps are good examples, IMHO.

As for dungeon maps, I really hate cluttered maps filled with details. The dungeon map is for the DM, not the players, so there is no need to depict every bit of broken wood here and there :)

I'm currently working on a regional map: drawn by hand, scanned, and digitally edited. This map is both for me and my players, so I worked a little extra on its looks :)

Big McStrongmuscle said...

I'll drink to that.

The DM's small-scale map should be simple and functional, so that he can decipher the dratted thing. Artsy maps make great player handouts, but simple symbols should suffice for the referee.

That said, a little artiness usually makes large-scale maps *more* readable, but those work best when they aren't obsessively accurate anyhow.

1d30 said...

I think the most important measure of a map is that is accurately depicts the geography. It can look pretty if you want it, but you can't sacrifice accuracy for appearance. Clean lines, simple symbols, no Photoshop tricks, low color saturation if any.

I have particular beef with the 3E forgotten realms maps. They rewrote them seemingly freehand, with many landforms altered. There were even roads that used to go straight East that now went Northeast! Madness!

Why they couldn't scan an old map in, pick out the various features for separation into layers, then draw over them I have no idea.

Tim Shorts said...

Hey Rob, I think the most difficult thing I deal with in mapping is not so much the details of the map since I hand draw my own, but rather the scale. Scale has always been a pain in the butt. I draw out what I think is a good looking map and realize that the barony I've drawn up is now bigger than the state of Pennsylvania or small as a schoolyard. What are the stand scales that you use for various maps?

stirgessuck said...

A series of posts I would enjoy: practice and homework. Sure, we can follow along with your Fantasy Sandbox development at home on our own, but I think something a bit more structured and with feedback would be top-notch. Maybe that's just me.

Rob Conley said...

@stirgessuck - Definitely food for thought.

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

I've used 5 miles per hex or square for regional maps. You can fit a fair amount of geography on one page, but it still works for actual travel. These are my working maps, not the actually pretty map to hang on the wall. I still do more detailed maps with varying scales for villages or other outdoor sites where players and I need tree and building locations for encounters and tactical use. Many of these are just sketched on the fly.

Alan said...

I'd just like to see you continue on with your tutorial. I found it a couple days ago and have been working on a map of my own, and it would be very helpful to know how to do this stuff efficiently. I am very much a non-artist, so I am going to be using actual maps as the basis for my fantasy world.