So in trying my hand at Regional mapping I threw together some images that I'm calling "Relational Maps". These maps are quick, concept maps that simply convey the 'relation' of one region to another.
It all starts with the idea that I had for using index cards for large-scale mapping. You just write the name of whatever region / forest / lake or whatever on it and then figure out what's around that first card. You start developing 'clusters' of known geography (index cards glued together) that you can then flesh out into territory and get a sense of what is where within your world.
This basic framework allows me to hash out what is next to (north, south, east and west of) what. I've used some color to denote specific types of geography (green for your average forest, yellow for plains, dark green for dense forest, light green for swampy marshes) and threw in titles so that I could get some sense of proportion and scale.
I also used the map to break down some of the political relations within the territory by using a series of colored arrows to tell how one 'square' felt about its neighbors.
Red Arrows = Constant Aggression
White Arrows = Neutral / Favorable
Orange Arrows = Occasional Aggression
These maps were then used to quickly convey the geography of the territory and political climate to the players.
I was also able to use the relational map to place the major races for the world. I'm not really happy about the 'bubbled outline' effect that I used but I was pressed for time before a game and had to hammer it out quickly. I need to go back and add separate layers to show 'highlited' zones for each race or something. I'm not sure how best to convey the content.
I've also tried to use Sketchup to try and develop some sense of elevation within the territory. But it didn't work out so well. I'm not sure how to use the scale properly.
If I assume that, for example, 1' (on the map) equals 100 miles (on a flat plane)...and then try and express that same difference as elevation there's almost no variation. Do you use a different scale for 'up' than you do on the flat plane?
One of the handy features of 'Relational Mapping' (Seriously, if anyone knows the 'real' term for what I'm doing please let me know. I just made up the term because it sounds...like it should exist) is that you can crop to a specific area and then expand the details of that area for geopolitical borders.
Again, this is just a series of virtual "Index Cards" that are used to express where territories are in relation to each other.
I've also used this to break down some basic trade routes within the territory over a given season.
So that's my relational mapping project in a nutshell.
The next phase:
Turn the map into a real...map.
I get what you're trying to do here, and I like the basic concept. I think, at times, I do the same thing, I just keep it in my head though. As for creating a "real" map based on the areas defined by your relational map, might I suggest RobA's Using-gimp-create-artistic-regional-rpg-map tutorial. Even if you aren't using gimp, there are several good concepts there that might help you get a more natural/shakier look to the various sub-regions of your "real" map.
When nothing is going right and you can't find someone else to blame, start beating your head against the wall, 'cause it'll feel so much better when you stop.
Ok - here's an update on the basic map that I'm working on. I've used some mountain brushes to knock out the three main mountain chains and threw some color into the two bodies of water.
Still working on it.
I need some serious help on laying out the mountains to make them look more realistic in their placement. Obviously this is based off of a very crude map design but I'm trying to make them look more...'organic'?
Comments welcome. Help Appreciated.
Yeah, those mountain ranges are not great.
The first thing I would suggest doing is that you need to overlap your brushes. At the moment, other than a few small areas they are all just brushes independent of each other and so will never look good. To solve this you need to join them up. There are a few ways to accomplish this and still make it look good. Firstly, you can do a search for the clone stamp teqchnique which allows you to place one vrush over another without the bottom one showing through. Another technique is to place your mountains on two or three different layers making sure that any brush that overlaps another is on a different layer. You can then easily erase the part of the mountain that is overlapped.
Another thing you can do is to link them with colour. For instance, those mountains are very dark and in between them all is your tan texture. If you were to take a similar dark colour and paint between the mountains to connect them , removing the tan space between them then they will look better. But this would then need smudging and blending in to your paper texture to look any good. And also your mountains are placed so regular that this still probably wouldn't look great.
Another thing I would suggest doing is not making your ranges so straight. Suggest spurs etc. by just placing one or two mountains as an offshoot from the main range.
Ok. I'm just not able to work out the mountains for this map. I have been working all day on coming up with different brushes and designs but nothing seems to look "right". It's not like I'm quibbling over textures or high lights but just the sheer "oraganic" quality of the mountains to make them look less like a blocky, relational map and more like a real...map.
So here's what I'm asking.
For those of you out there who know how to do these Mountains and have a fairly easy job at it - take a crack.
I've attached a copy of the gimp file that I'm using with the water layer (posted above) along with the original relational map that denotes where the mountains 'should' go. Feel free to make them look as organic / real / natural as you'd like.
Thanks to anyone in advance!