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Thread: Mapping a world: Start with regions, or start with the world?

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      Kromey is offline
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    Question Mapping a world: Start with regions, or start with the world?

    Hope I'm posting this in the right place, please forgive a n00b if not.

    I'm getting ready to start creating maps for a home-brew D&D setting, using some of the tutorials and resources on this site. (And, yes, I'll post my WIPs here for feedback and criticisms.) My immediate need is a regional map for the area the characters are currently hob-nobbing about, but eventually I will also need regional maps for other regions, as well as of course a world map so everyone can see how it all fits together.

    For utmost fidelity, it seems like creating the region maps and then later piecing them together to form the world map would be the best approach. (Note that, at least for now, I'm talking about mapping the individual continents first, so the "seams" between them are just wide open ocean.) Using this approach, I can simply reduce the resolution of the individual continents, and the general shapes would still be recognizable between the world map and the region maps.

    On the other hand, some of the techniques I've already seen in these tutorials seem like they'd do really well to take a world-map scaled region and blow it up to a realistic-looking regional map without destroying the general shape of coastlines and the like.

    So, my question to people who've done this kind of thing before: What is the best way to make world maps and regional maps in such a way that they're clearly representing the same world?

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      Larb is offline
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    My world map is very basic. A landmass, with simple single colour blocks for the major geographic features like mountains and big forests. From there, I zoom in and make a pretty map. Although you can't really stitch together the regional maps, they are consistent as I just take a section of the main map, enlarge it, then make it look better.

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      lostatsea is offline
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    Personally having done the regional to world route. If your group does alot of globe hopping and you don't keep your world map up to date I found that you'll find that individual regions tend to not fit as they seemed to in regional play. What I mean by that is when you go to fit the regions into the world they end up to closer or farther then previously represented. Or several regions end up being located in the same area. So it is perhaps a good idea to do a rough map of the "KNOWN" world and pencil in the regional maps as you uses them. I recently LOST alot of regional maps to a drive crash so I now I currently have a unified World map and am currently recreating my regions. and plugging them into the larger map jigsaw puzzle like. Seems to keep placement more coherent altleast for me.
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      Hai-Etlik is offline
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    If you real want to get this right, you need to deal with projections. Projections suitable for the full globe aren't much good for larger scale maps, and vis versa.

    I'd suggest starting with a very rough global map. Just enough to have an idea of the extent and location of things. Then do regional maps in suitable projections. I'd favour Conformal projections for this: Normal Mercator for the rough global map, Lambert Conformal Conic for wide areas in mid latitudes, Transverse Mercator for tall areas, and Stereographic for the poles and maybe for compact areas.

    Then you can put everything in a common global projection to combine it. Normal Equidistant Cylindrical would probably be a good choice for data you plan to reproject into other forms. For a final global map, there are a lot of choices. I favour Winkel Tripel myself, though it looks rather "modern" and might not be suitable for fantasy maps. A pair of hemispheres in equatorial azimuthal projections work well and have an interesting look about them. Normal Mercator is good for a map emphasizing marine navigation.

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      RobA is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kromey View Post
    Hope I'm posting this in the right place, please forgive a n00b if not.

    I'm getting ready to start creating maps for a home-brew D&D setting, using some of the tutorials and resources on this site. (And, yes, I'll post my WIPs here for feedback and criticisms.) My immediate need is a regional map for the area the characters are currently hob-nobbing about, but eventually I will also need regional maps for other regions, as well as of course a world map so everyone can see how it all fits together.

    For utmost fidelity, it seems like creating the region maps and then later piecing them together to form the world map would be the best approach. (Note that, at least for now, I'm talking about mapping the individual continents first, so the "seams" between them are just wide open ocean.) Using this approach, I can simply reduce the resolution of the individual continents, and the general shapes would still be recognizable between the world map and the region maps.

    On the other hand, some of the techniques I've already seen in these tutorials seem like they'd do really well to take a world-map scaled region and blow it up to a realistic-looking regional map without destroying the general shape of coastlines and the like.

    So, my question to people who've done this kind of thing before: What is the best way to make world maps and regional maps in such a way that they're clearly representing the same world?
    Hey-

    First I moved your post over to the How do I? as it was in the WIP/Critique forums, where members post specific maps looking for feedback...

    No problem though.

    I think the main answer is "it depends", and the second answer is "it probably doesn't matter (unless you are dealing with the map of a technological world where an accurate world view is possible).

    Remember, planets are real big (in most cases) and maps are usually local, regional at best. As you already pointed out there is much opportunity to allow error over oceans, so accuracy is probably not that important. Look at old earth maps. The amount of distortion from a modern aerial view is crazy huge! Remember - the primary purpose of maps for a very long time were to communicate a message (navigation) or to mark territory - so many maps were more pictorial representations with key landmarks and terrain features marked down.

    Now on the other hand if you want an accurate (to a modern degree) map where everything fits and lines up properly, I'd follow Hai-Etlik's advice. I usually generate the entire world using software that maps to a sphere, then pull off projections to depict the region I want to detail. If I want to make local feature changes, I'l sometime re-project them back to the full world, or not bother, depending on the need.

    Welcome, by the way!

    -Rob A>

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      rdanhenry is offline
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    First decide overall cosmology and sketch the world roughly. You can then build starting from a village, but you should have a little idea of the big picture. Make it easy on yourself if possible and make a flat world so you don't have to worry about projections. This doesn't work if you want to bring in space travel in any way, but you can make a D&D setting as huge as you want in other ways (different planes and more subtle tricks), so it isn't as if you're limiting yourself to a "bottle world". There are good reasons to do round (or exotically shaped) planetary worlds, but for fantasy, flat often works and you create a more "fantastic" vibe that way.

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      Stormhawk is offline
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    Not to be mean or anything but its Newb not Noob... the world noob was meant to insult newbs or newbies that first start playing the game... so unless you want to insult yourself go for it..

    But back to the topic I am not the best map maker in the carthograhy guild by far but here is a little tibbit of what I would do. Since I don't know if the map is an actual universe or not I broke it down into two.

    Universe
    If it is a universe you are playing in then that is far more easier because you can map out the world using the natural transition that the game provides. for example every galaxy has its own map.. then each planet will have its own map and then you can map out and lastly the known universe.

    World
    If your playing on one world then people that have posted before me have given you a great answer
    Last edited by Stormhawk; 12-18-2011 at 01:55 PM.

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      Kromey is offline
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    First of all, thank you all for your input -- it's all really useful! And thank you RobA for putting this thread where it belongs.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormhawk View Post
    Not to be mean or anything but its Newb not Noob... the world noob was meant to insult newbs or newbies that first start playing the game... so unless you want to insult yourself go for it..
    That's actually exactly what my intent was -- a little bit of self-deprecating humor.


    Given that this is my first attempt at mapping out a world, for my own sanity's sake I think I will ignore projections for now, and just map as if the globe were in fact a flat sheet, which works well given where all the major trade routes and hubs lie, making almost all travel confined to that one flat "projection".

    Really good point about fantasy maps not necessarily having to be hyper-accurate like modern maps. They just need to be close enough to give my players a good idea of what's where, and allow me to give more-or-less consistent travel distances as they sail around.

    So, given that, my first map will be the continent-sized archipelago they are currently island-hopping about, and then a few of the more noteworthy islands will get their own blown-up maps. I'll follow that up with a world map, and produce regional maps from that as needed.

    I've gotten a decent start on the first region already, although the tutorial I was following evidently doesn't produce much effect at all on the coastlines when dealing with a large archipelago-like region -- looks like it would produce really nice coastlines on large land masses, but a lot of smaller ones results in almost no effect whatsoever. Still, I'm happy with what little progress I have made so far, and should have something to show off in the WIP forum in the next few days.

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      RobA is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kromey View Post
    ... And thank you RobA for putting this thread where it belongs.
    No probs, that's why I'm here! Also your response was caught in our overly aggressive spam moderation queue (it relaxes as you get more posts) which I also took care of.

    -Rob A>

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      jbgibson is offline
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    Another angle on the world-then-region or vice versa approach is whether you want to make reality (synthetic reality) drive the makeup of your setting. Example - if you (or some nice random generator) puts a landmass just >there< on a planet, plausible climatology would dictate / suggest "oh, well, the north side would be drier, the south edge more jungle-y". Whereas if you create a detailed bit of continent in your head (I was going to say in a vacuum but we'll let you tell us your impression of the inside of your skull :-) ) it may take some rationalization to put it in a semibelievable place.

    I like to let physics, geology, plate tectonics, climate all dictate what would happen to a piece of land just >there<, or what the people in a certain place would have to do for a living given that ocean currents would likely do >thus<, and that volcanoes over >there< would be continually disrupting the vinyards. Pesky, those volcanoes.

    NOw, that's all partly due to me LIKING to do the worldbuilding. If you have some old castles that urgently need looting, and a dismal swamp that your players really need to be forced to squish through, you may be impatient with devising a rigorous global setting. In that case, getting enough of the local area set up to permit adventuring is an immediate priority. What's your timeframe? Are there six people in your kitchen, swiftly stripping your fridge, who need to be given something constructive to do Right Now? Or is there six months of slack time you can fill with thinking and drawing?

    For me, it's important to know a little about what's over the horizon from the git-go. if the next continent over is half a world away, and mostly desert, noooo sense in writing up the background culture of corsairs and traders shipping jungle-spawned produce and convoys of riceboats. If the next landmass is an easy week's sail, is edged with a zillion islands and rivers, room for a rich tapestry of societies and products, then hey, there can be TEN sets of pirates, privateers, navies, and trade federations, and the effect on the bit of land my players are on now can be profound. I don't have to detail all that stuff over the sea to tell stories locally, but it adds richness if at any point there might be refugees from the typhoons that beset the far coast, or pilgrims passing through from those-islands-to-the-south on their way to the arctic shrines a couple of thousand miles off to the north.

    More importantly, you don't have to PUT all those details in the current story / campaign /session ; just having them in your mind is enough to spice-up the milieu. Sooooooo many created worlds fall into the tight-focus, near-is-all-there-is trap. Somebody can refer to "the pilgrim's path" and suddenly there's a nice reason for a route through your current continent from north to south, without your northern and southern kingdoms even LIKING each other. Thinking ahead about other continents tells you there just isn't enough open ocean to the east to allow hurricanes to develop - hence no insurance consortium to insure shipping - hence the big office building your guys are going to loot must be something else, maybe investment bankers or diamond cutters.

    I've done well before with a world where a crude overall map existed, and we just detailed nations as somebody wanted to do one.

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