View Full Version : Is there such a monster?

Graeme Brown Winnipeg
08-14-2012, 06:04 PM
Hi guys,

I am new here, and just read through the tutorial. Now, before I dive in an download the GIMP software, I noticed there were some other programs preferred, but I know very little about what methods people use. So, I'll appeal to one of you who knows the ropes well...

The reason I came here was because I was hoping to discover software that would generate a random map that I could then tweak and modify, and add cities, towns, labels, etc, to. I am not interested in drawing it with the computer - what I'm looking for is a program that has "add it" buttons. Before I download GIMP and play around, I thought I'd post this real quick just in case someone knows of just the thing for me. If not, tips are always appreciated.

Thanks you!


08-14-2012, 08:35 PM
Well, one of our members (xoxos) has been working on this (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?19058-itw-spherical-mapping-software). Not sure if that fits you requirements or not, but it might be worth the look.

08-15-2012, 03:00 AM
I don't know a program offhand that will automatically generate the full set of towns, roads, labels, etc.

There are lots of programs that will generate a base map image (http://www.ridgenet.net/~jslayton/software.html has such a package, for example, with a fair number of tutorials hereabouts) and it's pretty straightforward to generate such a map using the noise functions built into most drawing packages. The software mentioned can also generate basic vector contour output for use in third-party packages such as Inkscape if you're more of a vector-type person.

Graeme Brown Winnipeg
08-20-2012, 08:52 PM
Thanks for your comments.

I'll be more specific if that helps narrow it down a little. What I'm looking for is a program that will generate a random terrain, minus the villages and settlements. The only requirement that I'd have is it has to be enclosed by a forest and I have some ideas where the lakes and major features are. This might be the standard software in the introduction package, but like I said earlier, I have little time available to learn something new. Anyway, again, I appreciate your suggestions and feedback!

08-22-2012, 02:29 AM
i'd go with wilbur to start with. or perhaps use some stochastic method (generate noise, threshold to create shoreline.. can be done very quickly) in gimp et c.

mine does world maps at 4096 * 2048, so not so cool for regional maps. still doesn't do more than render a height field atm (added bmp output to the version i think i linked, but that's all..)

there was another guy here with the same intent.. an app to generate the lot, nations, cities, roads, for people who want arbitrary planets.. his last blog entry is 4/10..

08-22-2012, 12:46 PM
Not to seem sarcastic, but I read threads like this all the time. Would you as a creative writer agree that your job requires careful thought, planning, an understanding of logic, composition, active vs. passive text, and a host of other thought provoking detail requirements to create meaningful fictional content? Including more than likely a college degree?

You're asking for software to automatically generate meaningful terrain, geologically sound, with logical placement of roads, communities, farms, labels, etc, is almost the same as if I as a professional cartographer want to create a publication, but I don't want to pay a writer to do it. I want software to automatically generate the compelling fiction accurately, so I can provide the maps and sell it as a product. You and I both know, that such a request is silly, even irresponsible.

Your request for automatic, believeable map generation is just as insane, in my opinion. In order to create a believeable map, you need a human, a skilled cartographer to do that, especially something for publication.

While there certainly exists software for random city generation, random terrain generation, even software that will place rivers that are geologically sound based on erosion alogrythms to depict a realistic terrain - it's going to be random, or even with user intervention using scanned height maps, etc - it will not duplicate the cartographic thinking required to make a sound map. Such software can certainly help you create the directions for a decent map - you still require a cartographer to accurately finish the map to a usable format.

I don't think you realize what you're asking.

When a creative writer doesn't realize that art, illustration and cartography are just as vital to fictional creation as the writing itself, and actually requires direct human participation - there's something wrong with your concept... Do you understand where I'm coming from?

I think you'd be far better off, asking for a paid cartographer to do what you're asking.

08-22-2012, 05:15 PM
So basically...no, it doesn't really exist. There are some things that can sort of mimic the variables using mathematics but you still have to have a brain behind it so that it makes sense. Even then we are always catching one another doing things that don't happen in nature. (See 'River Police' :))

Check out some of the items mentioned above for those generators.

While GP's post seems a bit of tough love he also makes some valid points. I think a majority of us here are basically artists who make maps. Some use a lot of math and others just go with what their gut tells them. A few here have actual jobs making maps in the real world. As for me, I'm an artist who's day job just doesn't have anything to do with art. This is probably where a lot of us come from.

The reason I mention all this is so you might understand how the question raised might come across.

If I had to boil it down it would go something like this:

Hey all you artists, I would like to know if you know of a robot that can replace all of you because I am not an artist, don't have time to learn how to be one, and yet I want some art.

If there was such a robot I'm not sure how most of us would feel about it, LOL. I imagine the day a computer can paint stuff better than I can is the day I'm hanging up my crayons.

08-22-2012, 06:16 PM
Really, I'm not insulted by your request, and don't mean to come off as being upset or anything like that - sorry for the 'tough love'. I just find it surprising that writers (you're not alone, many writers start similar threads like this one) think their work requires serious effort, while the art or maps is a 'push button' solution. I find it mind boggling that you'd think so.

Especially since I am a writer as well, and fully know the amount of work required in both writing and cartography for a professional job. Neither are 'push button' tasks. The amount of work and preparation to create 5000 to 10,000 words of meaningful fictional text is equivalent to a single mapped region, village or dungeon (depending, of course, on your particular skillsets, competency and speed of workflow).

08-23-2012, 03:52 PM
as a non-hostile reply to gamerprinter -

we live in a culture where envaluation is highly influenced by monetization, and.. if i can say it to you in turn, "i see your kind of protest all the time.."

it's not an unreasonable request. computers allow for an immense amount of procedural development, and the primary point which you ought to appreciate is that there are many many many users in the world who do not have your standards, and are going to be okay with a blob with a few dots and squiggly lines on it. it's not an insult to your craft, it's a matter of less involvement. there's pop music and there's classical.

i think waldronate can offer a similar perspective on procedurality as i... most gamers are quite happy with the proceduralism of simplifying a combat round to a dice throw outcome. as a melee enthusiast, i could quite happily amend this simulation with many layers of complexity. if i wished, i could also act scornful and say that the simplification of a melee round to a dice throw is offensive to someone with my skills to complicate the simulation..

..in fact, if there were many "complex melee simulators" we would get together and roam the internet in gangs arguing that people respect our practice and accept that a quality outcome requires our level of involvement. but as you can appreciate, a single dice throw is just fine for people who couldn't care less and don't know any better.

where i'm coming from.. i've spent a decade physical modeling musical instruments.. these models are superior to sampled instruments (the other primary technology in instrumental simulation) due to the degrees of articulation. timbral fidelity is usually inferior. some of my models have really sucked.. but never enough to make me use samples.

(and you can generally spot the industry professionals in the reviews of my plugins.. like my vibes model phybes.. fairly simple simulation, good enough for most users.. the guy who posts a half page and talks about my ancestry and the functionality of my rational faculties? he sells vibraphone sample sets lol)

both envaluations have strengths and weaknesses.. instant procedural worlds would rock for (a very narrow range of role playing events, such as dimension travelling or whatever..)

*even if some of the rivers were in the wrong place* >:)

perhaps the aspirations of myself and other pursuants are misguided. i think there is an application, a niche if you like... it's like transhumansists vs. organics.. while more or less diametrically opposed, both have some values, and ideally it would be fine if both could follow their progress without the need for declamation.

i see what you're saying... i've done a lot of work that others don't appreciate.

but, i'd never expect others to. it's my work.

it's not an idle question.. if someone with some resources (say stanford) put an instant generator together it'd be a fair bit more realistic than some penniless schmo who has barely hacked his way into the win32 sdk, and, like some tosser making physical modeled instruments, would probably be balked by unscrupulous, jealous, and greedy persons who earn their income from the alternative.

i've run into a lot of those kinds.. not that that's where you're coming from. some of them will try and take out anything that challenges their perceived wellbeing, and that is such a drag for those of us who are only interested in improvement.

08-23-2012, 04:06 PM
and i'm going to add, for emphasis..

i really, really hate money... it turns creativity and joy into need. suddenly the artificer has to defend the social peception of their activity. i can't think of a faster, more effective way to turn people against each other.

08-23-2012, 10:01 PM
I don't mean to suggest anything has to be paid for, just that both writing and map making are creative exercises equally requiring careful thought and skill. If you do not have the time or inclination to became a skilled cartographer, find one, there are many that might do it for name credit only. Random map generators are nice tools to work with, but shouldn't replace a cartographer's skill.

My only point in my previous posts are that both writing and map making are creative exercises and should be treated so.

08-24-2012, 12:09 AM
I understand what Gameprinter means. What the op is asking is the equivalent of an author asking for a program to generate cover illustrations for a novel, thereby skipping over the need for the artist, or a movie director wanting virtual actors so as they can by-pass the real actors.

08-24-2012, 04:26 AM
I found this! http://www.the-elite.net/story-generator/


08-24-2012, 05:41 AM
As a person who writes a mapping app and also some simulation software like my GeoTerSys which stands for Geological Terrain Simulation I have some experience in that area. I can see Gamerprinters point of view in that at present there does not seem to be any app which will make pseudo random terrain in which all of the features of it are plausible to reality. The Turing test for A.I. says that if its not possible to tell whether its real or computer generated then its intelligent.

Terrain is a physical process and as such it ought to be possible to model with a simulation if you include and process enough of the physical processes to a degree where it represents reality. It ought to be possible and maybe there are some research units running something like this on big mainframes but I have never seen one and I am pretty confident that there does not exist one for a home computer.

My simulation handles some processes and to some degree of accuracy to the real world but not enough to make every result plausible. Some more apps make even more random terrain or have pretty good generation for certain types of terrain and not for others. All of them tho dont do it to a level of detail that is sufficient so as not to be able to tell its computer generated (if you know what your looking for).

Community and town placement are a human decision thing but I would argue that for one person it could be based on quite bizarre decision making but for many people like a village up to city then its based on processes that can be modeled. Usually by maximizing the availability and efficiency of natural resources. I have wrote my simulation and posted about that on this forum and showed that its a very complex task to simulate the workings to a degree that are plausibly real.

Now people are good at this kind of thing so G.P is right in that in the absence of these apps a person can usually reason out where towns, villages and terrain might be located. My person feeling is that at the mo this is the best route but in time it ought to be possible to write an app that does this better than a person. For example, we have the ongoing issues with river placement as that is a simple enough rule to burn into computer code that a computer simulation usually does better than a person.

So it depends on the kind of terrain you want, the kind of villages and towns you need and crucially, the users experience and expectations about the map. Since Tolkiens books are the most successful fantasy books ever written and his map was extremely crude then for him it didn't make much odds about its plausibility and put in the mountains, forests and rivers in such a way as to promote the story that he wished to tell. And that's something that is unlikely to ever be burnt into computer code.

So is there an app to make random terrain - yes. Will it stand up to the requirements that it fits into a book story - maybe. Will it stand up to experienced scrutiny - almost certainly not.

08-24-2012, 10:25 AM
I agree that there is certainly intuitive software, such as Redrobes app, that could emulate the creation of realistic terrain to some degree. If you have the scientific mind to appreciate using similar software, then you might qualify as a fictional cartographer relying on software at some level. Still cartographic skills by a human can enhance the results of such software.

Really the whole point of my Kickstarter project is so that writers, gamer designers, editors, illustrators, cartographers and page layout can have their work accomplished for my proposed printed books, for at least 1 book and perhaps 3 - and that all the professionals involved get paid up front for their proposed work. Nobody is left in the cold awaiting possible sales to pay for their services.

Edit: let me add that if your writing is for a personal game, or other low exposure situation - simple maps without true cartographic skill should be good enough. However, if your intent is for publication and sales, proper writing and proper cartography is the expectation. So for publication only, standards are much higher.

08-24-2012, 02:39 PM
I found this! http://www.the-elite.net/story-generator/


and it gave me THIS gem: 'MY PRECIOUS!!' she cried, as she reached for a sharpened ninja star. With a hasty thrust, she buried it deeply into her prostate.

<<shudders some more>>

08-24-2012, 08:27 PM
and it gave me THIS gem: 'MY PRECIOUS!!' she cried, as she reached for a sharpened ninja star. With a hasty thrust, she buried it deeply into her prostate.

<<shudders some more>>

Now I understand some of the more specialized fan fiction on the Internet...

"The Internet: A Dadaist paradise."

08-25-2012, 12:19 AM
I just find it surprising that writers (you're not alone, many writers start similar threads like this one) think their work requires serious effort, while the art or maps is a 'push button' solution.

Tell me about it. It's amazing the number of people who think the computer does all the work when you're doing CG animation. If that were true, my animation would be way better than it is!

Anyway, there are some tools that can automate parts of the process. String enough of them together, and you can arrive at something that doesn't require you to do much or any manual painting. As GP says, though, it will never look as good as if someone who really loves the craft had done it. That doesn't mean that such an effort is without merit, though. Bad art made with love can very often trump good art made without. Not always, but often.

08-25-2012, 02:12 AM
For many years and many thousands of dollars I searched for the box of software that included talent. I found that I could use the toys in a lot of the boxes to make very pretty results, but each looked as imbalanced and unimpressive as the last. At the end I was forced to conclude that the creative spark, the difference between interesting and not-interesting, would require a massive neural network trained on all manner of inputs over a period of years.

I'm working on training up a neural network now, but I don't have any interesting results yet. Until I can get good enough results, I'll just rely on humans for the things that need to appeal to other humans and I'll rely on software for the other things.

08-25-2012, 02:17 AM
On the subject of http://www.the-elite.net/story-generator/ - it's really just an old-fashioned Mad Libs template with a few machine-controlled randomizations thrown in. A human was needed to make the layout and generalize many really awful stories into one horrendous template. Not that software won't be able to do a pretty good job of analyzing bodies of existing work and making novel results based on that work; it will be and can do so in some limited areas now. Experienced humans will likely be able to tell the difference for the next decade or two. When the machines get to the computational power of a human cortex or beyond and incorporate true random processes into their basic systems, I don't think that we'll be able to tell much difference, and I'm not sure that we'll want to...

08-25-2012, 03:36 AM
By then we'll be hiding in bunkers and looking for ways to take down Skynet.

08-25-2012, 04:37 AM
Just to be fair in the discussiion, here's a current link to the Random City Map Generator 5.4, free software used to create fairly realistic village/city map creation as a 'push button' operation. I even use it for developing city layout ideas. I emulate some of it's street placements in my actual map designs, though I never use it verbatim.

Random City Map Generator (http://roleplaying-city-map-generator.software.informer.com/5.4/).

08-25-2012, 04:50 AM
I really wish that the writer of that software had continued with it. If he had incorporated an L-system method of doing the streets with proper T-junctions and vector output this would be an absolutely superb bit of kit. Still, you can't argue with free.

08-25-2012, 03:09 PM
Still, you can't argue with free.

Of course you can! For example, the biggest defect in the random city generator is that its streets don't appear to do anything in the way of self-avoidance or leaving much in the way of spaces between streets. In the real worlds, streets are there for a reason: they connect places of interest in a way that can be navigated efficiently by a mode of transport. If your mode of transport is foot traffic and your streets are evolving from cowpaths, then streets will tend to be curvy, convergng things that follow the terrain pretty well. If your streets are laid out beforehand with cart traffic in mind, then there is likely to be a grid involved and moderately wide streets. If the town has two high-volume points of interest, there is likely to be a wide avenue connecting the two directly. The random city generator doesn't take any of that into account.

08-25-2012, 07:23 PM
That has always been the thing with the city generator stuff when I've seen it. The streets just never "look right". They seem far too random and for no real reason.

Also they never take into account particular industries, religious sites, random class/caste based or quirky laws passed by the rulers regarding city development and all that. While initial sites are often chosen according to particular resources in the area, the longer a settlement exists, the more things like that will come into play. Whimsical building projects and laws passed along ideological/religious lines are not far from the norm in history. And then there's disasters, natural and manmade, that can change the face of a city or part of it. Also external threats that force a halt to development because a wall needed to be thrown up.

I just can't see how a random generator is ever going to be able to take all those kinds of factors into account. I'm not saying they aren't useful or they don't have a place, but I don't think they'll ever be as "authentic" as someone who has put the time and thought into the city they are drawing.

08-26-2012, 02:35 AM
Getting moderately plausible maps is possible with a fairly simple generator. Most people don't know enough about what a city looks like or how the world works to know why (or even if, in many cases) what they're looking at is "wrong". Maps also tend to have lots of areas of low detail that the brain fills in with what it wants to see. As an example, the classic fractal fractional Brownian motion terrains look plausible at first glance to most humans. But they are physically implausible. Despite being implausible, they can still be useful in many ways for mapmakers, especially to add a little bit of irregular detail to an otherwise flat space.

The way to get physically plausible results is with a simulation or set of simulations. Even those are fairly primitive at this stage. CityEngine, for example, is a tool based on simulation that interact with other simulations under the guidance of a human - it can generate quite plausible road maps and buildings under those constraints. However, the human still does the overall planning and lets the machine do the gruntwork of fleshing out details. Would CityEngine ever generate the craziness of Brasilia, the oddly disjointed nature of Lisbon after the reconstruction following the earthquake of 1755, or the total change in cahracter of London following the great fire of 1666? No, because that's not its goal. For the foreseeable future, humans are probably going to do the top-level direction and let the software handle the masses of fiddly details.

Another example of a simulation that fails is the terrain parts in Wilbur. The results are visually appealing in many cases, but they are still physically implausible to due to the limitations of the simulations. In the real world, erosion isn't dependent solely on the difference between altitudes except in a very few cases. The real world isn't broken into a rectangular grid of square blocks that connect only to their nearest 4 or 8 neighbors. The real world isn't populated by a single manic eroder that goes very, very fast over and over again. But even with these limitations, Wilbur can generate some visually appealing results for some types of maps.

Software is getting better and better at handling very specialized tasks. But the tools are only as good as the people handling them. Tools can go a long, long way to getting a good result, but for best results at this point in time, most people are better off hiring a specialist than trying to do that task themselves. If people insist on doing the task themselves, then they'll get the pride of the DIYer at the cost of the results of a DIYer (and I'd like to point out that I've seen DIYers get better results than some professionals, but it often takes longer and costs more than just having a professional do it). Software will continue to get better and that will make the lives of the professionals easier as well as the class of folks who want something that looks pretty but who don't care too much about the consistency of the results.

08-26-2012, 02:36 AM
random generators can take more into account than you might think. for one thing, they don't always exhibit human limitations or biases, if the programmer includes a forgiving tolerance for the otherwise. w.s. burroughs is often quoted for saying "when you cut into the present, the future leaks through" in regards to his experiments with "cut-up" randomisation (both experiments and observations being well documented), which sounds like a load of cobblers until you experience it, but this delves into regions that could be interpreted as religion so i'll stop there.

i spent part of my youth living at arcosanti.. the prototype arcology. futures were envisioned with significantly different cultural norms, eg. a predominant techno nomadism, entirely feasible for dreamers. and i have increasingly been living in a manner i prefer rather than waiting for a sensible culture to sweep over me. i don't mean to declaim you, but when you talk about what people "should" do (which is always fine, just fine when sufficiently subjectively qualified..), and, "to make sure everyone gets paid" to me, you are living in some unrealistic mode. being an artist, being skilled or talented, capable, practiced, accomplished, is not a license for income, which capitalists tell me is based on demand. really you are using a subjective envaluation for all your statements. whether it's right or wrong, people don't care about what you care about. if that weren't true, you wouldn't have had to tell the original poster how important you and your profession were.

art is art, skill is skill. take pride in yourself if you will, but when your pride expects your skill to earn food and a table to eat it off, you're likely to discover that the world is constantly changing unless you are significantly insulated from it. examine what technology did to the swiss watch industry, the epitome of craft.

professions advance and decline. when imaging and interface is advanced enough, cartography will die out, it won't matter how much love anyone puts into it. it could take centuries, eg. for humans to move on from grouping it with gunsmithing and other "heritage endeavours", but cartography is not immortal.

i do entirely understand that monetization and being "honoured" for your accomplishments by station of career is very real and inclusive to you. the dream of a polite, civilised society is so appealing.. but utterly impracticable as politeness requires conformity.

perhaps what you will consider to be most important, i don't get paid much at all for what i do, monetarily, as cultural redaction is my requisite form of income.

for some of us, or at least often for me, generative algorithms are that careful, vital craft, that can hold the breath of being. i make it that way. if you were to apply your knowledge to generative code, perhaps you'd consider it a serious option.

whatever anybody does, if they're not setting out to shank nobody, it's okay. remember that.

08-26-2012, 05:23 AM
I don't think there's a professional RPG cartographer in existence that does so full time (maybe), almost all have some other day-time job doing something else. I don't think any of us depends upon RPG map-making as a means of putting food on the table, I know I don't. Cartography is only a hobby that sometimes pays, if you're art is sought after in any degree.

Add to that, my other sideline, which is developing RPG campaign settings as a co-publisher, while the products are 'for sale' items, they hardly provide any kind of consistent income that would allow me to quit my daytime job. Even my "RPG map printing business" is the tiniest percentage of my daytime graphics design/digital print studio daytime business. None of my RPG related income streams, even added together provides enough as a full time income.

I didn't decide to participate in the RPG industry as a means to make serious money, rather it's a hobby I love that gives me some opportunities to bring gaming material to a fanbase, with a simple goal of paying for itself only, and maybe a little more.

Am I a capitalist? I am an entrepreneur, so I suppose I am, but that doesn't mean I'd ever intend to 'shank anyone' (I haven't needed to so far). I provide needed services that are paid for, that's all. You're welcome to whatever lifestyle or belief system, you prefer, but I'm certainly not ashamed of what I do.

08-26-2012, 02:28 PM
most people aren't, at least while they're doing it.

no worries. i've certainly expressed my perspective exhaustively and as always it's only a lack of common experience that produces any discussion.

i've seen plenty of professional, multimillion products with maps that were probably developed from napkin stains. the idea of people thinking that a marketplace has any reverence for ethics or craft... lol, no way.... i've seen too many guys preach about being moral in business to slow down their competition and then using the most direct route to accomplish the minimum. anyone going into the marketplace expecting ethical treatment from their fellows is at a disadvantage.

the methods for making a map or accomplishing anything are always what they are.. what comes to the artificer.. we both think romantically about our endeavours.. i expect eg. god or world building aliens would have as much of a chuckle about you saying your handwoven processes are more authentic than procedural processes as you do with the more rudimentary generators. humility.

? ;)

08-26-2012, 05:30 PM
Which is the beauty of Patron based products through Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and other platforms (like Open Design's inhouse system). Products being developed at a more grass roots level, especially among tabletop RPG creators, small groups of freelancers mostly combining their talents to create RPG material that get paid for as a donation/pre-order, with opportunities to contribute to the ruleset as game designers. It's not created by big publishing houses, doesn't expect multimillion sales, just a way of getting a printed product to game store shelves, essentially created by hobbyist/professionals.

So, many bigger companies might have a greater propensity for being unethical, doesn't equate to capitalism being inherently flawed. I'm quite satisfied, yet hopeful for the final results of my Kaidan Kickstarter project.

08-28-2012, 03:18 PM
it's not a subject for this forum, but of course capitalism is inherently flawed. money is an abstraction, which means it is not actuality.

an abstraction may be presented in a skewed fashion to promote a favourable outcome, and as a culture we are all subjugated to it to the extent that it is superliminal and few people question it's existence. rabbits are frequently equal to $2. humans are equal to about $25 in the chocolate industry. you can say "i don't buy slaves" but you are implicated most of the time you eat chocolate. as said, an abstraction that may be skewed to disguise the truth, eg. a lie.

all life requires land. since land is property, life is property. it seems pretty clear really. try slipping out of the leash and watch the fireworks. but don't expect other people to see them.


08-28-2012, 03:43 PM
Of course you can! For example, the biggest defect in the random city generator is that its streets don't appear to do anything in the way of self-avoidance or leaving much in the way of spaces between streets. In the real worlds, streets are there for a reason: they connect places of interest in a way that can be navigated efficiently by a mode of transport. If your mode of transport is foot traffic and your streets are evolving from cowpaths, then streets will tend to be curvy, convergng things that follow the terrain pretty well. If your streets are laid out beforehand with cart traffic in mind, then there is likely to be a grid involved and moderately wide streets. If the town has two high-volume points of interest, there is likely to be a wide avenue connecting the two directly. The random city generator doesn't take any of that into account.

I guess you can argue with free then! This is what I like about City Engine, (which I need to get back to) - you can tweak the streets after you have drawn them in to make the city fit in with the model in your mind.

Graeme Brown Winnipeg
08-30-2012, 05:25 PM
I didn't realize this would start such an interesting conversation. By no means to I underestimate the complexity of true map-making - nor am I looking for a push-button program that makes a real map. I was just wondering if there was something that would create terrain to give me an idea of what is doable or not. At present, though, I do not invest as much time in my map, except as ideas come to me. It builds as I write. In past, I have tried to draw a full-up map and it ends up being unrealistic, because I don't know some of the basic principles of map-making. I was hoping that software might generate something so that I could use it to learn and then modify to make it realistic or as I'd like it. When all is said and done, I'd be taking the generated model and hand-drawing something else, using it as a reference. Many fantasy writer's, for example, take maps of the world and modify it in shape so it looks different, but it's geographic forms are believable.

Anyway, thanks for all your replies. I will check out some of those links as time permits and stop in here again.

09-08-2012, 03:16 AM
I didn't realize this would start such an interesting conversation. By no means to I underestimate the complexity of true map-making - nor am I looking for a push-button program that makes a real map. I was just wondering if there was something that would create terrain to give me an idea of what is doable or not. At present, though, I do not invest as much time in my map, except as ideas come to me. It builds as I write.

Real cities don't get built all at once either, as the famous saying concerning Rome goes.

In his introduction to the Map of Ahnk-Morpork, British author Terry Pratchett says something to the effect of never planning the city and not thinking it was mappable, until he realized that real cities get put together more or less the same way, except instead of authorial whim or the needs of the plot, real cities are shaped by economics, the occasional fire or other disaster, the whims of rulers, that sort of thing.

Maybe keep a sketch map of your nominal city around (or a series of maps), and rather than trying to force the whole thing out at once, come back and add to it a bit at a time, fill in a few details, that sort of thing?

Graeme Brown Winnipeg
09-09-2012, 12:28 PM
This discussion has helped me to gain a lot of appreciation for the hard work that goes into making a good map. I want to thank all of you who have contributed to it. At this point, I think I will look to (when funds, or publishers, allow) work with a professional cartographer to take the world I've sketched out and generate a realistic map. It's easy to look at the maps Christopher Tolkien drew for his father and then assume fantasy map making is a matter of a nice detailed sketch, but there's so much more to it.