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Thread: How far should RPG maps follow natural laws?

  1. #11
      ravells is offline
    Community Leader Gracious Donor ravells's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    London, UK


    Excellent points, Publius!


  2. #12
      Sigurd is offline
    Guild Artisan Sigurd's Avatar
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    Dec 2007

    Post Plausabilty and Suggestion

    I think my interest comes from a slightly different angle.

    So far I think people have forgone realism in favour of believability. Something I wholly agree with. Publius's example of the skyscrapers he thought would be gone in a thousand years is a good one. (He conveniently ignores that his fave idea, the fast food joints, would have vanished even earlier - though maybe not the french fries ) He forgives the fast food joints their unrealism because he likes them. I think the map has to give you the elements that encourage you to buy into it.

    If I draw a street as 28 doors attached to 28 10x10' cubes. Each cube had better have a similar size thing in it or this should be a very unique street. If door one has 30 Bugbears in it, my players are going to either feel amused or cheated. The difference is in whether they have understood and accepted that the map as absurd - have they bought in? If they have, its a great map. So the second door has a Roman Trireme and the third has an infinite number of monkeys with a first draft of "Merchant of Greyhawk". This might work, once, but it has a limited currency.

    Some level of believability avoids jarring threats to the players enthusiasm. I don't want to ask them to buy in again too often. To keep their belief its best if I give them something that excites them or that they like. Manga fans see nothing wrong with importing manga characters into Faerun because they like manga. Forgotten realms purists will rebel in horror. What the players want to believe is as important as their philosophy on what is believable. Enthusiasm over correctness - Happy over "right".

    But I see another benefit of striving for 'realism', I'll call it plausible extension. This is a huge bonus to creation because it helps me choose what actually is going on.

    If I have just drawn roads connecting a bunch of towns, plausible extension says that there is traffic for those roads. If I can extrapolate, from something in the map, how much traffic and where its going I can use that to write setting. If I am very lucky my players will make some of the same observations I do and they will say "Hey this is believable" because what I'm seeing makes sense to me. Or even better, given the map, they will do something smart to achieve success - thats a good RPG moment.

    Plausible extension, or extrapolation, is one of the huge benefits of careful map making. Because you draw some of your story from the details in your map, having a logic in its construction can pay off. If you have a city with too little land to support its population, disrupting its food supply might be a stressful game element. If you can actually measure distances and travel times according to your maps - you can build strategies and plan trade routes.

    Of course you can still pick an element and simply choose to make it a reality. Some players will not care or might draw enough important detail from the narration or some other element of the adventure. It depends on your style and that of your players.

    I love Handsome Rob's attention to detail in his Atlas maps. You can daydream you way around in them and think of how the various elements might interact.

    Personally, I want to be able to make maps with that level of plausibility and realism.

    - Sigurd
    Last edited by Sigurd; 03-28-2008 at 01:55 AM.

  3. #13
      hans_worst is offline
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    Mar 2008


    I haven't got the mapmaking skill under control yet. But I find this an general problem with rpg's. Personaly I like playing and creating realistic rpg's. But we(the group of gm and player I play with) started with dungeons and dragons; so there is still a lot of fantasy in the games we play. Now I try to make the fantasy believable. And I think that's a great point to reach as a gm or cartographer. When the players feel like, "yeah the world could be like this." The more believable the fantasy is to more real and powerfull it becomes.

    I think Publius says a true thing. But the most people will not just make things for others. They also make them for themself.

  4. #14
      loogie is offline
    Guild Adept loogie's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    Strathroy, ON


    very similar to me hans.

    I started with DND, and i love the whole dragons and orcs and beasties... and played a lot of "magic saves the day" campaigns... but as i got better at roleplaying, i lost much interest in the substance of magic to explain away all the errors of whats going on. i am much more hardcore when it comes to playing now, and have since left dnd behind, and picked up what i like to think of as a great system, called High Adventure Roleplaying (HARP) by ICE. it walks the line between being a quick hack and slash game like dnd, and an overly complicated system like rolemaster which takes 20 mins to complete a battle between 2 people. Now i use magic very lightly, take injury much more serious, and give out riches and power items much less... i find it adds something to the game... noones hanging onto their axe of decapitation and running into battle with abandon cause their cleric is sitting behind them ready to heal... it takes more thought then that

    and i believe such has bled into my work with maps as well. I find that along with my thirst for realism in combat, and roleplaying, my thirst for realism in geography of my maps has increased as well. The more it makes sense the less i have to rely on my trump of "its that way cause the god of magic made it that way... now eat your pie" my oddities now come from planned events, things i WANT to stand out, to make people want to question, or experience.

    an example of such is having a river flow directly into a mountain, and disappear... why does it disappear? no one knows.. it just does... it tends to make players want to explore it... and happen upon a passage to a large series of underground caves.

    I find that as long as you plan your unrealistic areas before you make your product, instead of living with them after you've finished it... you have succeeded. Using magic to make grand and amazing features, instead of explaining away all your flaws, makes a big difference when it comes to mapping, GMing, and love making

    "i swear honey... someone cast shrink on it!"
    Photoshop, CC3, ArcGIS, Bryce, Illustrator, Maptool

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