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Thread: What are the most iconic maps/cartography to come from the RPG/fantasy genre?

  1. #1
    Guild Novice BigMapBlog's Avatar
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    Question What are the most iconic maps/cartography to come from the RPG/fantasy genre?

    I was directed to Cartographers' Guild when I posted this question over at AskMetafilter and got some great leads; I'm asking y'all directly in hopes that the collective expertise here can shed even more light. Many thanks for your time and your experience.

    I write a blog about very large maps. I'm strong on the "maps" part; weak as a kitten on the "RPG/Fantasy/MMO" part. I'd like to find some high-quality, innovative, significant examples of fantasy cartography to write about, but I'm at a loss for where to start; so I'd like the opinions and guidance of connoisseurs of this mapping idiom, first.

    I've had to wade through quite a bit of crap, honestly, to find the few gems I've found so far. I'm not sure where to look, and it doesn't help that I'm not sure exactly what it is I'm looking for.

    Notionally, the maps I'm seeking would score high in the following ways:
    • maps exhibiting tremendous skill, effort, and craft on the part of the mapmaker.
    • maps thought to have very high significance or import to a particular genre or canon (as agreed upon by large segments of the community)
    • maps at least somewhat interesting to a layman, and having fairly broad appeal (not saying that it has to be white-bread or anything... just that it should be benign or inclusive towards those unfamiliar with RPG tropes, rather than excluding them, outright)

    For different reasons, it'd also be great if:
    • the maps could be obtained at very large pixel dimensions -- we're talking minimum 3,000px × 3,000px, but preferably larger.
    • the mapmaker could be contacted about giving his/her permission to use the map and/or the map is in the public domain. (A hard-and-fast rule of mine).

    Many thanks for your expertise and your answers. I look forward to researching further.

  2. #2
    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Good luck with that. I expect your biggest issue would come with the last bullet. I would doubt that most artists would release their art into Public Domain, so I expect it hard to find many examples of stuff produced in the past 100 years or so(give or take depending on copyright laws in country x,y,z,etc)

    I am sure some others more knowledgeable about history will have plenty of older maps to share.
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  3. #3
    Guild Artisan geamon's Avatar
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    I echo what jfrazierjr said would go even further. Most often then not, digital artists contracted to create maps or cartography are hired by a large entities or companies ( i.e. tabletop publisher, video game developer, etc). When this happens, the copyright and distribution rights are owned by the company who originally hired the artist in question. So you would need to contact them and deal with their legal departments to purchase the rights and it probably won't be open to the public domain. Most artists and people represented on this forum work for the tabletop RPG market. There's a few people here you can talk to who are excellent cartographers for their IP's but again it probably won't get you anywhere. Mike Schley, Robert Lazzaretti, Jon Roberts, Jared Blando, Matt Goldman are just a few artist off the top of my head who have made some of the most memorable RPG maps. Hope this helps.
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  4. #4
    Guild Novice BigMapBlog's Avatar
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    Doesn't need to be from a corporate or even a well-known source.

    "Iconic"/well-known is only one route I'm interested in. Who among the amateur/enthusiast community is making amazing stuff? Who is making the most amazing maps that you, personally, feel is deserving of more attention from the wider (conventional) cartographic community?

    Many thanks.

  5. #5
    Guild Member Thesslian's Avatar
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    Well, if you just want to know who my favorites on the board are, I will have to go with:

    Ramah's map of Aronbor Revisited: Aronbor

    Pasis's map of Bretoria: Bretoria

    And Schwarzkreuz's Imperial Worldmap of Arden: Arden

    Not that there aren't a ton of great maps made by the people on this site, but those would be my favorite three I have seen so far.

  6. #6
    Publisher Facebook Connected bartmoss's Avatar
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    Aweosme thread and I will definitely follow the bigmaps blog, thanks for posting that.

    As for the maps themselves, innovative is not really something you will find here. Maps are maps, really, and the innovations are done by the pros. And how much can you innovate anyway? We probably don't need another map projection, and the rest is down to technology. Like, 3D representations, GIS, whatever.

    Do you require authors of the works to create the maps themselves? If so, you will find almost no examples really.

    That said, some pointers:

    - JRR Tolkien, Middle Earth is a given.
    - D&D cartography: Many of the D&D worlds have HUGE maps, for example check out Anna's huge Greyhawk Map ( And nobody will argue the influence D&D had on the fantasy scene.
    - Traveller: Influential Sci Fi RPG and the first attempt at detailed sci fi settings maps. - it covers a lot of territory.
    - Star Wars: Their cartography was nonexistant for a long time, but they nailed it down eventually. Go to Amazon and order the Star Wars Essential Atlas, it's an amazing book with awesome maps. Again, nobody will argue about the Star Wars influence.
    - Same deal for Star Trek, except I am not aware of an official map for the setting. They did have a lot of amazing blueprints of star ships though, which kind of qualify as maps.
    - Ultima had "innovative" maps in that they included cloth maps with every game, as well as other trinkets. Probably not what you are looking for for your site, but still cool stuff.
    - if I recall correctly, Jules Vernes mapped his Mysterious Island, which is probably a fairly early example of creating a fictitious place in detail
    - Most MMOs have TERRIBLE maps, they are built around gameplay purposes and almost never feature realistic or even consistent geography.
    - Do check out the ROckstar Games Grand Theft Auto games, San Andreas and Liberty City especially, which from what I have seen are very well designed. I am not sure nice maps of them exist, but google is your friend.

    As for great maps on this site.. browse the archives of the completed map section, check out random images in the galleries, that sort of thing. That are a lot of great maps on this site, and some are even huge. There's also a worldbuilding group on Deviant Art that has some awesome maps collected.

    As a total aside, you absolutely should talk to Jerry:

    - Nils
    Last edited by bartmoss; 02-04-2012 at 06:22 AM.

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  8. #8
    Guild Novice BigMapBlog's Avatar
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    Many thanks for the leads, which I am currently going through with great excitement.

    I'm kind of jumping into the deep-end of the pool, here, with my total lack of familiarity with the idiom. This process is made considerably easier by expert guidance. You have my appreciation.

  9. #9


    Very impressive blog, I love the art style from the beginning of the century.
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  10. #10
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    I'd say the classic maps in the RPG industry are those that detail the iconic worlds that the games are set in.

    The oldest classic that started it off was the World of Greyhawk: here and here

    That map was created by Darlene Pekul. It was later recreated for a newer version of the game by (I think) Rob Lazzaretti:

    The other major world for Dungeons and Dragons is the Forgotten Realms, with this map being the classic (for me):
    Forgotten Realms Poster Map
    I think that was Todd Gamble? But I might be wrong about that.

    Other iconic maps from the rpg industry - I'd vote in the Dragon Age map (I can't find a large version) and I'm sure there are now large and detailed maps of the world of World of Warcraft, Skyrim and other Oblivion titles.

    Newer RPG maps are Golarion by Paizo. Rob Lazzaretti does a lot of the large scale mapping for that world and does a beautiful job.

    There will be a huge map of Open Design's world of Midgard - once I finish it.

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