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Thread: Conceptualizing fantasy maps...

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      ExMachina is offline
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    Question Conceptualizing fantasy maps...

    I suppose this counts as my first post here...discovered this gem by searching on Google for Photoshop map-making tutorials; I certainly found what I was looking for.

    The reason I was searching in the first place is that I'm currently interested in creating a fantasy map for a novel I'm cooking up in my head. However, as a largely visual thinker, having a tangible map with which I can impose the story upon will help my creative process along.

    I've reached an impasse though...how does a fantasy world "end"? That is, what lie at the very edges of the map? As I want to create the entire world, I must address this issue. It seems that making the world flat is most in line with the subject matter and is what I want to pursue. A boundless ocean is always possible but then the reason behind it must be explained...a perpetual fog is another possibility. I would really like to have huge waterfalls at every edge where the sea casts off into the abyss, but my abilities with Photoshop don't extend that far to produce it visually.

    Of course when you look at someone like Tolkien, his maps look like just a small portion of the world, and the land beyond really has no meaning, but that bugs me. I suppose making the world round (talk about boring) will be my last resort.

    Any thoughts or ideas?
    Last edited by ExMachina; 09-15-2009 at 11:27 PM.

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    Publisher Gamerprinter's Avatar
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    Post Lots of ways to go, actually...

    Welcome to the Guild, Ex Machina!

    You should introduce yourself in the Intro Forum.

    How to make the world end, interesting question, and I'm surprised no one has ever put that before us, hmmm. I'm content with Tolkiens' method (standard method) to map only those parts of the world that pertain to the storyline.

    For instance mapping the Earth for a European based story, no need to anything except Europe - if that is the confines of your story.

    Waterfalls at the edge of the world? The River Police would raid you (oh wait I'm a member of the River Police... who seek geologic normality in maps expecially regarding rivers and oceans.) Actually that sounds like a viable idea, if that fits your storyline. I like it. Making waterfalls is a challenge, but its been done.

    Celtic island regional - a commission

    Here's a link to a map where I placed a waterfall in the ocean, as per a publisher's request - I think it worked well enough, might give you some ideas for waterfalls at the edge of the world.

    I suppose doing an entire flat map of your entire world, or cut to fit on a globe, or even placed on a globe are viable options. It really depends on what your goals.

    Regarding creating the whole world for a novel that only focuses on one area, I thinking showing the map of the whole world, might confuse the reader. Would it not be better to just map what's in the novel - ie: Tolkien style, as you call it?

    Again, welcome!

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    Guild Journeyer philipstephen's Avatar
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    Look for maps of discworld by terry pratchet for inspiration about waterfalls at the edge of the world... his novels are great satire!

    the movie Eric the Viking has a great sequence with going over the edge of the world as well...

    good luck with your map!

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      Ascension is offline
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    If you were to extrapolate Tolkein's world then it would eventually wrap around, all worlds are globes. So I would say map out the entire world just to do it but then restrict yourself to one continent and maybe a few islands. This way you always have some room to expand if you need to and also provides the base for future stories. When it comes to showing maps for a book then just show the one continent. You can leave the other continents as vague shapes for now. It's fine for you to know more than the audience and you should, you're the stroyteller so always leave something in reserve.

    The way I look at it is that on one continent you can have say three or four races of people (elves, dwarves, etc) and with the whole wide world left out there to explore you can put in other races (like orcs, halflings, and goblins) or others types of people (say like Asian, or African, or Polynesian). The main thing is to come up with some sort of superstition as to why no one has ever gone beyond the "known world" sort of like Christopher Columbus...he didn't fall off the edge but that's what people believed. They also believed that Atlantis is buried somewhere out there too hence the name for the ocean as Atlantic. Make up a story, the more outlandish the better.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
    -J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)


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      Ghostman is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascension View Post
    If you were to extrapolate Tolkein's world then it would eventually wrap around, all worlds are globes.
    In fantasy they don't have to be. You could have a flat disc, a ringworld, etc. Even a world shaped like a Möbius strip. Really, imagination is the only limit when one doesn't have to care about realism.

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    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    Well Ascension beat me to the punch and said pretty much what I was going to say...

    Oh, and Welcome Aboard!
    My Finished Maps | My Challenge Maps | Ghoraja Juun, my largely stagnated campaign setting.

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      ravells is offline
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    From what I've read, I have never seen anything to suggest that Tolkien's world was necessarily a globe - although I am not a total tolkien expert. There is a map in the Silmarillion where he depicts the undying lands which is effectively heaven by any other name, (see below) so it all gets a bit fuzzy as to how attached to our understanding of reality Tolkien's world was meant to be.

    As Ghostman said, fantasy worlds can be whatever you want them to be. I think it almost helps with the fantasy feel in having vast amounts of the world just blank - gives that 'here be dragons' unexplored type of vibe.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Conceptualizing fantasy maps...-daviddaymap.jpg  

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      Redrobes is offline
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    But Tolkien said that middle earth was based on our earth so one could therefore assume that the statement includes the global nature of it.

    This has come up before on these boards so ill repost RobA's link:
    http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/200...-middle-earth/
    Last edited by Redrobes; 09-16-2009 at 08:11 AM.

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      ravells is offline
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    Middle Earth was based on our real earth in a mythical earlier time, but the undying lands kinda throws the whole 'is it a globe' thing into doubt (for me). To have them both displayed as continents on one map is what put the doubt in my mind.

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      ExMachina is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascension View Post
    If you were to extrapolate Tolkein's world then it would eventually wrap around, all worlds are globes. So I would say map out the entire world just to do it but then restrict yourself to one continent and maybe a few islands. This way you always have some room to expand if you need to and also provides the base for future stories. When it comes to showing maps for a book then just show the one continent. You can leave the other continents as vague shapes for now. It's fine for you to know more than the audience and you should, you're the stroyteller so always leave something in reserve.

    The way I look at it is that on one continent you can have say three or four races of people (elves, dwarves, etc) and with the whole wide world left out there to explore you can put in other races (like orcs, halflings, and goblins) or others types of people (say like Asian, or African, or Polynesian). The main thing is to come up with some sort of superstition as to why no one has ever gone beyond the "known world" sort of like Christopher Columbus...he didn't fall off the edge but that's what people believed. They also believed that Atlantis is buried somewhere out there too hence the name for the ocean as Atlantic. Make up a story, the more outlandish the better.
    My thoughts exactly, the story would be restricted to one part of the world with possible references elsewhere for future stories to build. The purpose in getting the whole map done now is to ensure things such as continuity. In addition, if I create the whole map I can then produce a regional map where I zoom in on the place where all the action is occurring and I can understand how it fits in with the world around it.

    @philipstephen: I took a look at the discworld and found it's exactly what I had in mind. Except of course it would not be on the back of a giant sea turtle. The limitations come with my abilities to use Photoshop for something that is not mapped out in a tutorial.

    Thank you all for your ideas and discussion, its certainly helped me along.

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