In the Middle Ages (most notably with the "T and O" maps) it was popular to orient the map with East at the top, hence the similarity of the word "orienteering" with "the Orient."
I'm in the process of making a map of a fantasy setting, and I'm toying around with the idea of using this orientation in the map, basically for the sake of authenticity. However, I'm worried that this will be seen more as distracting than interesting. What are your thoughts?
IMHO if it is going to cause a distraction then don't do it. Maps are created to serve a purpose. In this case your map is to give your players a visual idea of what the world your campaign is set in looks like. In fantasy games compass directions are used quite often. As a culture we are conditioned to view up on a map as north. If you change this you will have players being forced to literally translate the map every time they want to indicate a direction which will create quite a bit of heartache in the course of the campaign.
Personally I would keep north on top. Very few people will even understand the reasoning behind the change if you do it. But pretty much everyone will be at least slightly confused by it.
That's what I was thinking. With my normal mapping style (borrowing heavily from Ascension and Tear) then I'd just make the map and figure out orientation later. Since I'm going for a more hand-drawn look with this one, though, I figured I should sort this out first. I would hate to rotate every single peak after the fact. :P
Nah, go for it. Throw them a curve ball. It's fantasy and they should make an effort too! :D
With our group, I would totally do it with East as your Primary, just make sure it has a valid in-game reason. But to save myself heartache, I would make a North oriented one for my wife, just in case she got mad... better safe than sorry... lol
North as up makes sense if you expect everyone to have a compass (or GPS unit) or travel by night using Polaris. East as up makes sense if you orient yourself each morning with the help of the rising sun. South as up makes sense if you are Australian and tired of being portrayed as at the bottom of the world (http://flourish.org/upsidedownmap/mcarthur-large.jpg).
West as up direction? Well, maybe you got your map from a contrary old eccentric. Those guys know where the best secret locations are.
That is maybe the best example of "fresh perspective" I've ever seen!
Originally Posted by rdanhenry
I decided to go with a North orientation. As far as how they get their orientation, I'm not quite sure how it would work out. My plan for the setting is to take a real-life folkloric realm (in this case, the Black Forest and the tales of the Brothers Grimm) and add in a dash of a different culture (in this case, wuxia fiction) for a little bit of originality. 90% of the map is blanketed in a thick, Hercynian Forest-esque woods, and with the prevalence of evergreen trees I don't imagine the sun being all that useful.
That said, everyone in the forest gladly gives their allegiance to this almost fairy-tale-esque kingdom nestled in a valley in what is essentially the Alps, in part because they're incredibly benevolent and just, and in part because a major river (this world's equivalent of the Rhine) has it's source in the valley. With that in mind, a south (the location of the "Elder Kingdom") or north (the direction in which the river flows) orientation might make sense. Aside from a few hunters, pagans, and brigands that are scattered in the woods, most of the population lives near this river, where they would have clear access to the sky. However, the only time you would really need orientation is when you're in the trackless woods, so...I guess it could be anything? :P
I don't know if anyone's still following this, but I figured I'd let anyone who's interested know. I posted the completed (more or less) map here on the forums. Enjoy!