RPG Map Making - An Extensive Guide - Introduction
Some people were asking for advice on how to make maps for the RPG games and it turns out I have a LOT of thoughts about maps. So, I decided, “Hey, why don’t I put together some of my thoughts into a guide for people who would like to make their own maps for their RPG games but don’t know where to start. That sounds like a good weekend project.”
Then I started actually organising my thoughts and putting together an outline and… well, it ballooned into a project and a half. So fair warning I have a lot of time commitments so this series is going to take a long time to put together in its entirety but I still think it’s worth doing.
For some background, I’m a geologist who specialises in making geological maps. Basically, my job and speciality is making functional maps for a very specific purpose and also being completely obsessed with earth science. That’s going to be reflected in the guide, in that I’m going to
a) repeatedly make the point that functional/useful is more important than pretty even though I LOVE pretty maps and
b) give tips on “realistic” vs “full-on-fiction” approaches to world-building so that those who aren’t worried about the nitty-gritty of realistic climate generation, for example, can skip right on by those sections and still make fun and functional maps for their world.
As this intro already gives away I’m a very verbose person naturally. It’s something I take great care to edit down in my paid professional work but in this series, it’s likely I’ll be only doing one or two editing passes, so the verbosity is going to remain in… so… I apologise in advance but hopefully, it’s not too big a price to pay for the content.
My hope is that this guide will help GMs of all art skill levels (from chicken scratch to “I art for a living” but don’t know how to start with maps) make maps that help them build their own worlds, run their games and that they enjoy using. I’ll also try to address any specific questions that people send me with regards to making maps or help with the specific maps they are making.
An outline of what I plan to cover can be found here and will be regularly updated with links as I complete sections: https://oldearthmapping.tumblr.com/post/172704733221/rpg-map-making-outline
So here’s to Map Making and let’s get started!
[Simplified map of Vancouver in watercolour that I drew/painted as a mood-setting and practical prop for my Fate: Dresden Files game.
Key Location markers are missing because I’ve added them digitally afterwards to make it easier to change/add to them on the fly during the Roll20 game]