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Thread: Quick question about creating fantasy or sci-fi maps.

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  1. #1

    Default Quick question about creating fantasy or sci-fi maps.

    When creating maps for fantasy worlds, is it best to create the lore and then draw the map based on the lore, or create the map and base the lore on the map?

  2. #2


    Everybody's process is different. Whichever works best for you is the best way to do it. Me, I get a rough idea, sometimes just a passing thought as to what I need to create, and then I start to map. While I create the map, thoughts develop that compell me to include this or that, so that mapping itself becomes a critical part of developing the lore - and the lore kind of creates itself. Unlike many I don't brainstorm before I make a map, I brainstorm during the making, but I don't know too many people whose brains work like mine.

    Its smart to spend the time to develop your concepts before actually doing a map, to give you parameters to work with. Again, there is no best way, whatever works for you, works for you - simple.

    Gamer Printshop - We print RPG Maps for Game Masters!

    Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG) Google+ community

  3. #3


    Alright, thanks! I think i'm just gonna sketch out the map and pray that more ideas for the lore come to me.

  4. #4


    What are you trying to make a map of? What genre - sci-fi or fantasy?
    Gamer Printshop - We print RPG Maps for Game Masters!

    Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG) Google+ community

  5. #5


    Fantasy, like for an RPG

  6. #6


    I need more than that. Is this a world map, a regional map, a city map, a unique wilderness map, an underground or undersea map. What specific terrain do you want to include: seaside, mountainous, desert, etc. These general questions need answered. Each of these are very different kinds of maps and each have different approaches. If I'm going to create a map for a European analog region of kingdoms on a major part of a continent, I need to know where are the mountain ranges, what is the climate, what kind of tectonic plate activity is going on that create the larger terrain features? Again, depending on the kind of map you're trying to create determines what kind of information is required to do a proper job. I guess you need to do some brainstorming ahead of time.
    Gamer Printshop - We print RPG Maps for Game Masters!

    Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG) Google+ community

  7. #7


    I was just thinking a world map, that is one huge continent, sort of like how Earth used to be. It would obviously be an island surrounded entirely by water, with rivers and mountains and deserts. Just a map with all the basic things. Thanks for the tips, i'll get to brainstorming!

  8. #8
    Guild Apprentice
    Join Date
    Feb 2011


    I find that sketching the map gives me ideas about who lives there and what they're like. Sometimes that gives me ideas a bout a cool group of people and where they would live and I'll modify the map to suit them. Ideas about each informs the other. In software, this is called an iterative approach.

  9. #9
    Banned User
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Traverse City, Michigan, USA


    When I created my D+D world, I started with a large piece of paper (the old flip charts size, if anyone here is old enough to remember those), and drew a quick line sketch of continent and ocean areas. Then I added a lot of islands, a couple of mountain ranges, and a few rivers. That's all I started with.

    Then I started writing lore, just making up "gossip" tidbits, a sentence or two each, throwing in names of people, places, and items, some history and some legend and some current events. (Example: "Percy the Doomed has reasoned that it may not have been the Ill-Starred Prince who was slain, but instead, his riddlemaster, due to some mistake by the demoness. The black bard of Quoob believes that the Hermit of the Fen is actually the Ill-Starred Prince, waiting for some unknown event to determine if his powers still work in this age, and if this comes to pass, he will one day come to power anew.")

    I didn't know who Percy was or the Ill-Starred Prince, or the black bard of Quoob, or even where/what Quoob was, or the Fen, or what powers might be referred to. I just made up a lot of lore.

    Then I started writing a single starting adventure module. From then on, I fleshed out the world and the map as I wrote adventures. I had a lot of ideas from the Lore to draw on, and I let the players tell me what they wanted to do.

    (Example: The players wanted to visit the black bard of Quoob). At that point I decided that Quoob was one of the islands that contained a Great Market that was a crossroads in the ocean for moving goods around, and the Black Bard was a somewhat legendary living hero who had disappeared 20 years ago (and thus needed to be found by the players). That was when I drew the map of the island of Quoob and the town Quoob and the Great Market itself.

    So what HBrown describes worked very well for me .... start with a minimum map, some ideas not yet fleshed out, a starting area, and let the players grow the story and you grow the map as needed. As they decide where they want to go next, I add detail to the map. The many islands start described in ways such as "an isle of low hills covered in bloodthorn", leaving me freedom to turn that island into whatever I want later.

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