View Full Version : Dishonest Mapping

08-06-2008, 07:55 PM
One thing I have been thinking about as I learn mapping is how to easily make alternate incomplete or dishonest maps for the players in a game. My (the Gamemaster's) map should of course be the real deal, but player maps could almost anything and possibly in completely different styles.

What got me thinking here was Natzapo's map (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=2679) and his wide river. I hadn't given it any thought as I have been looking at medieval maps and that is how rivers are sometimes done on them (http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/guides/maps/GoughMap_large.jpg). I just thought it was a style choice on the map as that is the sort of a map that players could be using, rather than a modern hyper accurate one. The map I give my players in my adult game will be much closer to the Gough map (http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/guides/maps/goughmap.htm) than the master map I will be using.

This all leads me to my question, how do you all do variants for players? The easy answer in most tools is layers, just turn off the ones they shouldn't see, but what about distorted 'hand drawn' variations of master maps, do any of you have any thoughts on how to do that sort of thing without just starting from scratch?

Pablo Diablo
08-06-2008, 08:24 PM
This is an excellent point, and one I've thought about from time to time. If you are giving the players an in-game handout, especially in a fantasy campaign, it is probably not going to be a photo-realistic representation of the terrain. Of course, in a high-tech world, or in a very high-magic world, more accurate and photo-representational maps become possible. Maybe even ubiquitous. But where's the fun in that?

I've never done this for a real game, but one option that I've played with a little is flattening my map and importing it into a new document

- I then took my tablet and VERY loosely traced over it, purposefully leaving out some details, altering others, and exaggerating a few more.
- Hand draw some icons...
- Use Photoshop/Painter/Gimp and experiment with getting a watercolor or ink-wash feel
- Of course the background has to be parchment. Or a well-preserved leaf. Or a piece of bark. Or a carved stone. Or anything else that important information might have been writ upon. Or scrawled quickly upon. Or drawn surreptitiously upon.

It's great to look at "Olde" style maps for reference here. Some mapmakers would represent more important features in a larger scale... Surprise!

Of course, while their scale might not be constant, they could provide a "standardizing" mechansim, much like the distance written on the Gough map that you linked to.

All in all, I think it's a great idea, and helps to not only set the tone of the world, but also immerse players in it, as their characters scratch their heads over a map and say "but shouldn't the village of HoldFall be right /here/?"

An untested method off the top of my head (VERY quick & dirty):
-Take your original map
-Create an outline from it, or from specific layers within it - I would have to play a little here... Find Edges? Anyone?
-Distort slightly (in PS w/ liquify)
-Replace some features with Icons, Image Hoses, Stamps or Pattern fills
-Add some Adjustment Layers to pull the color scheme together (Sepia? Inda Ink? Multiple colors of Ink/Watercolor washes? Your choice)
-Throw a quick texture over the whole thing to simulate parchment, fabric, or whatever your map is drawn on.

I may give it a try later, when I have some time to boot up PS and fiddle...


08-06-2008, 08:46 PM
The two important issues I see here are:

1) Time - 2nd map 2x the work. 0f course I can see the benefit and its a cool idea.

2) Fairness - I think you have to make 'Poetic' maps (That's the best term I've heard for inaccurate themed maps) in a completely different style than your accurate one. Often in gaming the map is the closest thing to the world that the players get. They don't have the benefit of actually being there to trust their eyes, ears etc....

I like PabD's example of a traced outline on parchment. That's how I've always handled it. The players can take the extra level of barbarism as a sign that its probably not careful or close.


08-06-2008, 08:56 PM
When I first started thinking about this, I was thinking about what I usually do...don't even look at the original and try to draw it from memory on regular paper then scan it in and overlay that onto some parchment texture in Photoshop. After reading Pablo I'm thinking about doing similar distortions. Nice idea and worthy of experimentation, if only to expand one's creativity or understanding of the software used. While I usually do things in a more realistic vein, I could easily see myself adopting something more painterly for handouts.

08-07-2008, 02:30 AM
This all leads me to my question, how do you all do variants for players? The easy answer in most tools is layers, just turn off the ones they shouldn't see, but what about distorted 'hand drawn' variations of master maps, do any of you have any thoughts on how to do that sort of thing without just starting from scratch?

I'm a big proponent of in-setting/inaccurate maps and, as you say, it's most often something I do with layers (for indoor maps) ... but it's not just about turning some layers off; I also tend to have bogus layers that I turn _on,_ overlaying (for example) the cheap dungeon-map the PCs bought from some huckster's overcoat with a few misleading (nonexistent) rooms and corridors.

For overland maps with the distortions or simplifications of ignorance ... I've never found a better method than just doing it by hand. But that's me all over: all of my [fantasy] maps are ultimately hand-drawn, even if they're digitally assembled.

In Uresia (a fantasy world I currently publish for and that Guardians of Order originally published) the in-book maps are explicitly "in-setting" in their lack of accuracy and detail, but they're based on much more detailed "master maps" that I use for local zooms (since the locals know their own area a bit better - though still seldom completely - than any world map would represent). The master map includes (for example) literally hundreds of minor islands that don't appear on any published map. The master map also includes the default "true" version of the "Troll Lands" (unexplored islands past the edge of civilization), while the published maps contain only semi-accurate guesswork based on the few slivers of the Troll Lands that have been explored. More recently (work completed after the world was already published) the master map also includes detailed path-maps for all the flying islands, etc -- stuff that will likely never be published, but which I need to keep my own offhand-joke-references consistent (even if nobody else notices) ;)

So it's not just something I do to _my_ players; I do it to other GMs' players, as well ;)

08-07-2008, 03:22 AM
Well, here's what I do at times.

For overland maps, I will draw them (the PC Handouts) by hand, and they won't be pretty, often a single Mountain for mountain range, a single tree for a forest, certainly not to scale.

Something similar for dungeons. Boxes for rooms, simple lines for corridors, often only representing major chambers.


Well, if I look at me real life, before I bought a GPS Unit for my car (more for wife than me), if I had to draw her a map, I would only give her major roads, not all the minor cross streets. Even my GPS will not zoom into the little streets unless it needs to while I am driving.

08-07-2008, 10:28 AM
What I have done in the past is a few photoshop filters and call it good.

If you want to distort or change the map so that it's no longer accurate, do that first. then follow these steps below:

First I flatten the map and desaturate it to a greyscale image. Then I copy it to a new layer and run the "find edges" filter. It will take some tweaking, so play around and see what you get.

Then I set the blending mode to "multiply" and copy it to a second layer set to "Screen".

Then add a new layer between the original and the two new edges layers with a parchment/leather/cloth texture on it.

Often I finish by adding some notes in a script or handwriting font to make things interesting. Set the opacity of the text to 70% so that the texture of the background shows through a bit. Print out a couple of copies and pass them around the game table. Everyone will want a look and some will add thier own notes and possibly corrections.

Edit: I'm at work, so tonight I'll upload an example.