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Thread: Looking to Learn. :)

  1. #1
      Frundette is offline
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    Default Looking to Learn. :)

    Hi!

    My character for an upcoming RPG game will be a cartographer/explorer. But I know very little about map making, so want to learn! So I was super excited to stumble across this place. I'm going to be doing some digging on the forums, but if anyone has any particular links that would useful for a brand new map maker to check out, point the way!

    Frundette

  2. #2
      Lailokken is offline
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    Heyo Frundette!

    I cannot find the actual post to link to, but the following is one of the most useful posts I've seen here on the site for new map makers like us. *I* did NOT create the post, a very talented veteran of the Guild named Ascension did. I merely saved it to my cartography folder so I could refer to it, which I do quite often. It was a reply to a young map maker I believe, which I found to be excellent information, great advice, and a real blessing (He has also done some easy to follow tutorials in the "Tutorials/How-to" folder). I'm not sure the title I have here is what his post was titled. In any case, I hope you find it useful too.

    Welcome to the Cartographers' Guild!

    -Lailokken
    ___________________

    -- How to Layout A Map – by Ascension --

    PLACEMENT ORDER

    Mountains
    Foothills
    Hills
    Rivers (Sea to inland. Trunk on coast, branches in the mountains)
    Connect Lakes to River System
    Lakes have many creeks that flow into them but only 1 flowing out
    Forests
    Generally, I put forests around mountains, lakes, and rivers and always on
    the west side of mountains. Then I'll stick some in at the end to fill up space.
    Plains
    Plains go on the east side of mountains (this is the rain shadow) and in
    temperate zones. This area can take up a great deal of space if you want it to.

    Savannas
    Savannas are hotter and a bit drier versions of plains and I put these between
    plains and deserts.
    Deserts
    Deserts are drier savanas so put those where it is hot and dry - not way up
    north and not right next to a swamp.
    Swamp
    (marshes, fens, bogs, moors, etc.) and those go where ever it is wet...cold
    and wet is a fen while hot and wet is a swamp. I put these around lakes and deltas.
    Jungles
    Jungles are just hot and wet forests with different trees than in temperate or cold climates.

    Then you can get exotic if you want and put things in like mesas, plateaus, cliffs, canyons, volcanoes, craters, etc. You can also get more specific terrain types like loess, tundra, tableland, scrubland, rainforest, etc. but you don't really need those.

    With the terrain done now you think about towns. Cultures around the world (it's a human thing) always build settlements around where rivers join other rivers or where they join the sea or a lake so put your big cities in those places. Connect the big cities with roads and where the roads intersect that will become an important trade center so put some towns there. Villages are usually put where people need access to certain raw materials like iron or marble. Connect the villages and towns to the road system.

    Next you have to think up names for all of those towns and cities and mountain ranges and creepy forests and foreboding deserts and pirate-filled gulfs.

    Lastly, put a scale bar on there so you know how far it is from one place to another. Put a compass on so everyone knows where north is - seems that it should go without saying but sometimes maps are made to fit the paper and therefore landmasses get rotated a bit. Put a fancy border on if you want and a pretty title. You can add some decorative illustrations around the edges if you so desire. If you really want to get technical put on some latitude and longitude lines and rhumb lines.


    Well, first you have to get the mountains and hills in. Since rivers flow downhill it's generally a good idea to get those higher things in at this point. Sure you could put rivers in first and then decide where the mountains are going to be but that usually ends up looking slapdash and the arrangement of mountain chains is almost impossible at that point. So we do it like mother nature does it, put the mountains in then decide how the water will flow. If you feel like you have too much open space then put a few lakes in before the mountains. Remember that mountains come in chains, not circles or squares or mish mash here and there little clumps. Hills can be a lot more freeform. You might want to read through the tutorial section on rivers and mountains and whatever else is there to get some better understanding of natural geography and the processes that shape the terrain.

    Once the mountains are in, put a bunch of foothills around them and then fill up some space here and there with more hills. Then you do up the rivers.

    Think of a river as a tree growing from the sea going inland - put the trunk on the coast and the branches in the mountains. Make your river curvy and bendy, not straight. Sometimes there are deltas in lowlands so those can be like the roots of the tree; just don't make too many deltas unless you have a lot of swamps. Connect the lakes to the river system. Lakes have many creeks that flow into them but only 1 flowing out - it's a physics thing. Depending on how far zoomed out you are (like you're hovering up in space looking down) you don't have to put in every single creek, just the rivers that are big enough to see (ie big wide suckers) or are important for a story. I always put in a rough sketch of where I want some rivers but hold off until the very end to put in the final rivers.

    Next decide where you want the forests. Forests can be put anywhere but if you want to get technical about it then you need to take into account things like latitude, temperature, climate, rainfall, jet stream, seasonal winds, rain shadow, etc. That's a lot of stuff to think about so if you don't want to then you don't really have to...but it helps for realism. Generally, I put forests around mountains, lakes, and rivers and always on the west side of mountains. Then I'll stick some in at the end to fill up space.

    Plains go on the east side of mountains (this is the rain shadow) and in temperate zones. This area can take up a great deal of space if you want it to. Savannas are hotter and a bit drier versions of plains and I put these between plains and deserts.

    Deserts are drier savanas so put those where it is hot and dry - not way up north and not right next to a swamp. On earth the deserts are generally located on the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn but there are some others not on those latitudes.

    Next you'll need some swamps (marshes, fens, bogs, moors, etc.) and those go where ever it is wet...cold and wet is a fen while hot and wet is a swamp. I put these around lakes and deltas.

    Jungles are just hot and wet forests with different trees than in temperate or cold climates.

    Once you have the basic terrains in (mountains, hills, forests, plains, deserts, swamps, jungles) then you can get exotic if you want and put things in like mesas, plateaus, cliffs, canyons, volcanoes, craters, etc. You can also get more specific terrain types like loess, tundra, tableland, scrubland, rainforest, etc. but you don't really need those.

    With the terrain done now you think about towns. Cultures around the world (it's a human thing) always build settlements around where rivers join other rivers or where they join the sea or a lake so put your big cities in those places. Connect the big cities with roads and where the roads intersect that will become an important trade center so put some towns there. Villages are usually put where people need access to certain raw materials like iron or marble. Connect the villages and towns to the road system.

    Next you have to think up names for all of those towns and cities and mountain ranges and creepy forests and foreboding deserts and pirate-filled gulfs. This is usually the longest part. Pick a font that fits the genre of your setting - don't use a Star Wars font on a fantasy map. The font should also be legible and clear; save the fancy fonts for the big title.

    Lastly, put a scale bar on there so you know how far it is from one place to another. Put a compass on so everyone knows where north is - seems that it should go without saying but sometimes maps are made to fit the paper and therefore landmasses get rotated a bit. Put a fancy border on if you want and a pretty title. You can add some decorative illustrations around the edges if you so desire. If you really want to get technical put on some latitude and longitude lines and rhumb lines.

    If you want to look into these things further then good ole wikipedia has lots of things to help you learn about them....or geography classes. As for the style that you show as an example, you'll just have to practice...experience is the best teacher anyway. If Clercon ever does a tutorial where he shows you step by step how do it all then that would make things easy. One last thing...we were all 14 once and drawing maps and dungeons n stuff but now many of us are in our 40s with kids of our own and jobs to go to every day so we don't have a lot of time either to walk people step by step through every little technical detail of the programs we are using. That's where the tutorials come in and you should practice some of them to learn the various techniques and tricks of the trade. Not all feedback may be as helpful as you want it to be but the cheerleading feedback should still be appreciated as it means some other person thinks you're doing a fine job...plus that person might be noob as well so they may not have all of the answers you're looking for. Everyday I say to someone here "looks good, man" or "nice job so far". Most of the time I really mean it but sometimes I just say it to keep people from getting discouraged and quitting. So just be polite and say thank you.
    A man shows who he is, by what he does, with what he has.

  3. #3
      Frundette is offline
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    Thanks! That's a pretty nice tutorial to get me started. Also thank you for pointing out the fact that a tutorial section exists here. I think I'll be spending a lot of time today just reading!

  4. #4
      miinstrel is offline
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    This is wonderful... It seems fairly common sense now that i've read it but having a written order of operations will be awesome. The acronym is a bit longer than PEMDAS though

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