Friday, 4 January 2013

Thoughts on Fantasy Maps

Fantasy Maps.  We loves them!

These are some insomnia inspired burblings which I rattled out on Tumblr the other night. Please forgive the poetic generalisations and bad grammar.
(All art by yours truly)

It’s interesting to think that when we draw fantasy maps in an antique style we will use a combination of symbols and representational 2D art - for mountains or forests for example. Draftsmen and architects are required to render real or yet-to-be landscaping and buildings in ways that are both accurate to scale or exactly distorted to match a viewer’s perspective.

Real and fantasy maps can please the viewer in terms of the appreciation of the artist’s craft and technique, but also as a creative vision - a communication of the mind’s-eye with detailed embellishments. The viewer can also experience a sense of vast open space, no matter what their surroundings are. We can wander around in tiny areas of maps (something done long before the the click and zoom-in of today’s technology).

Maps are immersive. 
They are virtual realities - simple and accessible.

Hadramkath Raging Swan Press on DTRPGPerhaps it is no coincidence that Tolkien’s works and fantasy books by CS Lewis became so popular whilst also having a terrain map. Perhaps AA Milne’s map of Pooh’s environs including the Thousand Acre Wood appeal in a way that mere words or scenic illustrations don’t. We are exploratory and territorial beings - a location and a sense of place is important to us. Sometimes when we are dropped into other people’s worlds its perhaps only good manners for our hosts to provide a map!

In tabletop fantasy role-playing games world maps and dungeon plans become very real and solid places. The mathematics or the game mechanics provide the thump and weight of obstacles and adversaries, as essential as any “physics engine” in a computer game. Without the game mechanics the map is merely a soft ethereal journey - a dreamlike exploration of other places. For a gamer knowing that “You are here” isn’t just about orientation, its about measuring their survival of recent encounters and bracing themselves for the next location.

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Not entirely related, but here's an animated gif of my geomorphs (made with GIF+) and a new promotional graphic for my Inked Adventures 'Basic Pack:

Inked Adventures
Hand Drawn Geomorph Tiles
Product Page on DriveThruRPG

Inked Adventures
Modular Dungeons Cut-Up Sections Basic Pack
Product Page on DriveThruRPG


  1. It's true that in tabletop fantasy role-playing games world maps and dungeon plans become very real and solid places. Helpful review no doubt.

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