View Full Version : Continent map (fantasy) - constructive criticism appreciated!

07-16-2014, 07:48 PM
Hey all!

So I'm doing my first homebrew setting for D&D (3.5 E6), and have started on a map of the continent (first map too - first time for everything. Designing the geography is a lot more fun than I expected it to be!). Just found out about this forum, and would love to hear any and all feedback you lovely people would have for me.

I don't know if any of the world politics / history are relevant, but I'll give some of the basics just in case. The Astherian (human) empire is the dominant one at this point; Tuvesh is another human group (splintered off from the Astherians not all too long ago); the Zensuur are an empire of lizardfolk that have lately been on a worryingly hyper-expansionist binge (due to the BBEG's machinations); the Baegrim are the dwarves, and have been around / stable for the longest by far (way back when, the other dominant empires at the time all collapsed in a huge war, and the dwarves were the only ones to avoid the massive collateral damage); the Northern Steppes is technically unclaimed territory, but full of nomadic orcs. The Darishyn and the Qa'Lun are still sort of question marks right now, but are there as placeholders to avoid the "one race and/or continent = one homogenous culture" cliche. I'm happy to give more details, but I don't know what's relevant.

Again on a "not sure if relevant" note: the campaign is starting in Tasden, the capital of Astherel, when the Zensuuri are just starting to mess around in obvious ways (they'd been doing a lot of infiltration-y stuff beforehand but without much movement).

Well, huzzah and all that! Here goes.

EDIT: I'm a few versions in to editing right now - here's the most updated version of my map. Anything else to consider at this point / any other resources or advice to offer would be greatly appreciated!


07-16-2014, 08:37 PM
Hey there! Welcome to the guild!

I have two things I would like to point out on this map. First, the rivers. We have people here who are part of what's called the River Police. I was surprised by this when I joined not too long ago. It turns out rivers have very specific and predictable ways of flowing, and tend to follow certain 'rules' as a result. An easy to understand explanation on this can be found in this tutorial (http://www.cartographersguild.com/tutorials-how/3822-how-get-your-rivers-right-place.html).

The second thing I would point out is that the edges of your continent seem very smooth, almost round. There are several tutorials on how to do this differently on this website, though it depends on what you're using to design this. What program are you using?

Aside from those things, I think it's a good start. Hope to see more from you on here!

07-16-2014, 09:49 PM
Hi, thanks for the response!

I did try to keep an eye on the rivers, but got lazy and missed a few things (like assuming the ones that would drain north from the mountain range and the ones that would drain south would be connected). Does this version fix the big river problems, or is that article still worth a read?


As for program, the map was hand-drawn first and then colorized and detailed in Gimp. I figured it was a bit too round, to be honest -- I kind of did out the political structure in big blobs, then just drew a convenient circle around it -- but I'm not sure about the best way to add detail. Any references you could provide would be really helpful.

Thanks again for the feedback!

07-16-2014, 10:11 PM
No problem! It looks a bit better but it's still worth checking out that tutorial. It's not too long and explains several pretty basic rules. One of the biggest ones I think applies to your current map is that rivers tend not to fork out much. If there is a fork, they tend not to go in completely different directions. Lakes in-land tend also to have only one river leading out of them. It's all explained in the tutorial, and won't take very long to read.

As for the borders of the map, I'm not familiar at all with GIMP. I've always used Photoshop, and should probably check out GIMP sometime soon as there are quite a few tutorials for that program on this website that I'm not sure how to replicate in PS. How to apply more detail to the edge of your current map also depends on how your current file is built up, in terms of layers. I tend to go overboard with layers, but that makes the filesize kind of big. Plus, the shape of the land itself is usually what I start with, like with my current map:


Start with big blob, then use a much, much smaller sized eraser brush to carve out the edge. How much detail goes into it is up to you, but like I said: I'm not familiar with GIMP so I don't know how editing what you currently have would work, exactly.

07-17-2014, 09:41 AM
Thanks for the feedback! The rivers tutorial was actually super useful, a lot of it felt like common sense until I realized I had missed quite a few of the things I was taking for granted. It's far from finished yet, but for now, I'll post the current version with updated rivers -- I think they should be good now(?)

Things I'm working on improving / adding at the moment:
1. Making the continent shape more "random" (for lack of a better word)... less like a circle with slight deviations;
2. Same thing but for the political borders, which right now are a bit oddly smooth (but I'm waiting on this until I figure out more of the history, since switching from an arbitrary straight line to an arbitrary squiggly one isn't the biggest improvement, and it would be nice if I could have actual history informing where the borders end up);
3. Working out the continent's biomes (I could really use a hand with this one -- I've found a few sources saying what types of things appear adjacent to each other, and a bit about how mountain ranges affect climate, but any more resources would be very appreciated).

Anything else to consider at this point / any other resources or advice to offer?

EDIT: new revision, see below!

07-17-2014, 10:20 PM
Whew! Okay. New map, new style, new many things. I've left off borders for now, until I work out the exact new places they go, but I've made a lot of the other suggested changes - you've been super helpful. Any more thoughts?


07-17-2014, 10:45 PM
When trying to click your attachment link, I'm directed to an error "Invalid Attachment specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator". I'm guessing something went wrong, so I can't really comment on it =P

07-17-2014, 11:47 PM
Whew! Okay. New map, new style, new many things. I've left off borders for now, until I work out the exact new places they go, but I've made a lot of the other suggested changes - you've been super helpful. Any more thoughts?


just repost it, you were disconnected

07-18-2014, 09:03 AM
Weird. Does this one work?

EDIT: With added border lines (first approximation) and more terrain symbols. 65816

07-18-2014, 04:00 PM
Wow, that is a very drastic change from your initial version! But I like it a lot. It is missing the color the first one had now, which is fine if you're okay with that. If not, I would suggest giving the different countries a colored outline along the borders. It's very subtle but clearly seperates the nations. I don't know how to do it in GIMP, though. Here's an example of what I meant:


I can explain how I did it in Photoshop, maybe you can figure out how to do it in GIMP. I started with an ocean layer, then a white landmass layer (which I gave a black outline so it's easier to see). Then I made another layer for the black border lines:


Then I made a seperate layer for each 'nation' or province or whatever you want colored, and started coloring them in. I wasn't worried about going over the line into the ocean, because it's easy to select the landmass, invert the selection and delete whatever's outside of it on each nation layer. Make sure the layer with the border lines is on top though, so the colors don't go over it:


Do this for all nations, making sure no two neighboring colors are too much alike:


The next step is where I'm not sure how GIMP would do it. Photoshop has a function called Feathering. It takes a selection and basically dulls it, making it less jagged while also adding transparancy to the edges, depending on how much you feather it. In this case, I selected the contents of a nation's layer, feathered it 15 pixels and deleted it. It comes out as such:


Do this for all of them and the center is completely empty, while having a fairly nice (in my opinion) colored border along the edges, setting them apart in a subtle way. Top picture is the final result. Sorry for spamming so many images, I just thought it might look nice on your map, since you had colors for each nation/section/province in your initial one. Hope it's at least a little helpful, and that GIMP has similar functions, should you wish to try this. If not, I could give it a shot for you in photoshop and send you a transparant .png for you to put on yours!

EDIT: Could you tell me what icons you used for your cities? They look really nice!

07-18-2014, 05:39 PM
Thanks so much again for the reply, and the suggestion - I gave it a try (gimp has the same feathering feature) and I think the colouring really adds a lot. Here it is, along with a couple other minor changes from today: 65836

I know it's a big stylistic change from the first version, but I had to start from scratch anyway with the new continent shape, and wanted to give another style a try. =]

Edit: Link to icons removed by request

07-18-2014, 05:46 PM
I think that looks really good! So glad the coloring worked out (might make a more step by step tutorial for it). Most important thing is, of course, if you're happy with it or not. You said you were making it for D&D. While I've never played that specifically, I've played in big online text-roleplaying groups and I think the current map works quite well for it =D Good work!

- Max -
07-18-2014, 06:59 PM
Actually those icons are some of my own that I did for old empire of Lorn map. Since they're aren't free to use and you didn't even ask permission to use them, I'm kindly asking you to remove them quickly

07-18-2014, 07:15 PM
I'm terribly sorry about that! I've taken down my link above. I found them on a third party site somewhere without an attribution link, I'm not sure where now -- I tried to re-find the link originally for Raziel and couldn't. Would you like me to remove them from my map as well?

07-18-2014, 08:33 PM
Also, question to you all. How do you go about making a map scale that fits with the sort of old-paper-y fantasy aesthetic? Any resources?

07-18-2014, 11:04 PM
That's a shame about the icons, they were very nice. I saved them initially but they've now been deleted from my hard drive. As for the map scale, do you mean the little scale bar that shows how many miles/kilometers a certain length is? If so, you can make it however you want, really. I always keep anything that should look like paper, white. The paper-y look itself is applied in an overlaying layer. That way, anything that should look paper-y has the exact same look, texture wise. Honestly, the best way to do it is to just do it. Look at how other maps with roughly similar styles have done it, and make one yourself. They're only little.

- Max -
07-19-2014, 07:40 AM
I'm terribly sorry about that! I've taken down my link above. I found them on a third party site somewhere without an attribution link, I'm not sure where now -- I tried to re-find the link originally for Raziel and couldn't. Would you like me to remove them from my map as well?
Yes I would prefer. Also I would be grateful if you could find the link of the site where you first find it.