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.