I've reached a point in my current map project where I need to start thinking about an effective yet characterful key for what I'm working on. The map is continent-sized and at the top of my head covers around 5,000 x 10,000 miles and features settlements (capitals, major cities and other relevant settled areas, including small towns that are of certain importance to the region/world), forts (including redoubts, walls and trenches of varying sizes), ruins, 'magical' locations (2 different kinds - light and dark, to cut a long story short), mnt. markers (mountain high points, volcanoes etc.), routes (generally various trade routes and pilgrimages) and possibly others.
I was wondering if, with your maps you usually stick to the same legend symbols or if you change them for project-to-project and though I suspect the latter is the most popular choice, if you keep the same type of symbol (eg. a star for a capital) do you just change the style from map-to-map?
Until now I was simply using circles of varying sizes for settlements (3-different sizes) and squares of varying sizes for forts (2) though due to the scale of the map I though having more visually diverse legends would help. colour and shape are the obvious choices, though I was wondering if there are any other tricks to use?
- I'm leaning towards circles and squares for unfortified and fortified settlements, respectively; 3-different sizes, red
- stylised star forts; 2different sizes, red (or maybe another colour to more-easily distinguish them from others?)
- the white and black portion of a ying/yang for white/black magic areas, respectively (or possibly, and more characterful of the world, I'm thinking of coming up with alchemical-like symbols for the white/black magic regions and using those); possibly 2-different sizes
- triangle for volcanoes, mountains etc. 1 size? red?
- three dots for a ruin? black
- something else and distinct for other regions of note. colour?
too many? or few? are they characteristic of an alternate 18th/19th century world?
EDIT: sorry for the proliferation of question marks and slashes, by the way