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  1. #1

    Question maps and building a world

    Ok my question goes out to anyone who can awnser especially to the veterans i was wondering what were the steps you used when making your map from scratch? what general ideas did u have when you made your world into a physical ? did u make the map first then the rest of the story? how did you come up with all the names for the places you wanted and how did you decide what to name what? like right now im looking at the rough draft ot my map and i seas. gulfs. ithmuses, straits, peninsulas,bays, islands and i feel like they ALL need names.. and perhaps a story behind the area: basically i was wondering what was your method of map making, deciding where to put mountins deserts etc and how you named them?

  2. #2
    Community Leader Gandwarf's Avatar
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    Jun 2008


    The maps I have done are all for the fantasy world I created. I have been writing a story since 2002 and I started mapping out stuff later. I only had a couple of rough sketches.

    Don't name everything, a lot of places in my world don't have a name either. You don't want to clutter your maps too much anyway, unless you are going for an atlass style map. I found naming stuff difficult as well. That's why the names of places of interest in my world have simple, logical names, like "Greenwood" for a city located in large woods and "Northgate" for a town that lies to the north. I also used the fantasy name generator to get some more exotic names:

    Oh, and I cheated a bit, as the overland map I needed didn't have any continents or seas
    Last edited by Gandwarf; 04-05-2009 at 03:08 PM.
    Check out my City Designer 3 tutorials. See my fantasy (city) maps in this thread.

    Gandwarf has fallen into shadow...

  3. #3
    Guild Applicant
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    Apr 2009


    Personally I love placenames and I have studied mainly English names which I find very interesting. I am personally somewhat tired of all these fantasy-style names although I found that fantasy name generator intriguing. I am very much on Tolkien's side, that a name should not be given randomly. All geographical have some kind of history and usually on a very local level. A name like Oxford is comparatively clear and means just that 'ford used by oxen'; Use your imagination and make up a little story about the place you want to name, even if it's just the name of the man (or woman) who lived there.
    All this said, I should add that my fantasy world is probably more modern than most fantasy world.

  4. #4
    Guild Member robb75067's Avatar
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    Sep 2008
    Albuquerque, NM


    I'm not a veteran but I'll throw in my 2 cents.

    1. Determine size
    2. Sketch map on graph paper, just rough outlines
    3. Scan in and trace in Photoshop (zoom more when tracing to add more detail)
    4. Add grid line, legend, all that stuff
    5. Analyze where I want mountains (they determine where everything else can be)
    6. Think about the basics of climate to determine where other things can go
    7. Place rivers, marshes, forests and deserts
    8. Add place names
    9. Clean up map (erase grid lines that I don't want etc)
    The road to success is always under construction.

  5. #5
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    Ft. Wayne, IN


    For me it all depends, sometimes I have a clear cut goal in mind and everything kinda just flows out of brain.

    Others I struggle with and go back and forth constantly tinkering with things until I'm finally happy.
    My Finished Maps | My Challenge Maps | Ghoraja Juun, my largely stagnated campaign setting.

    Unless otherwise stated by me in the post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

  6. #6
    Guild Novice Dogzilla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Colorado USA


    I just have a general idea of what kind of scale/landforms I want, then I can make the map. The I use the map to develop my ideas of the history/culture.

    Place names come later. Before I name anything, I need to know some history, religion/gods, culture and language. If a culture/region is prominent, I think about the language a bit and make up some words for things like colors and landforms. So if Gold=Val, Tree=Kon, Kingdom=Thar and City=Dar, then an area where golden trees grow might be Valkonthar. And the Golden City might be Valdar, etc. The feel of consistency this give to the map, for me, makes it well worthwhile.

  7. #7


    I make random coastlines and then add history and landforms based on that.

  8. #8


    The first steps, I think, happen before the map. What do you need from the map? What sort of Scale? Do you immediately need to see houses & locations or continents and oceans?

    After that start a step larger than your biggest scale and work back. If you need a town start with a continent - a continent start with a whole world. Then when you start work on the area you have to get right the greater picture will influence your decisions.

    Share what you need to share and don't be in a rush to share the 'big picture'. Keep it as a resource for yourself - you may want to change it or import other influences. I don't think players want to know you're clever, they want what their characters would know so they can figure out the rest.


  9. #9
    Guild Artisan Greason Wolfe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Tigard (and Florence) Oregon


    Good question. And for me, just like it does for some of the others, it depends on my overall goal. As an amateur author and artist it really boils down to a few things for me.

    Sometimes I have a backstory in mind. Whether it has to do with the culture, a particular event or an overall theme gives me an idea of just how large a scale I am going to be working on. Other times, it has to do with random inspiration. And then there are times that I might just be browsing the many millions of worlds that FTPro can generate (or terrains generated by Terragen) and something happens to catch my eye, just begging for more detail.

    When it comes to naming things, I usually don't begin to approach that process until I have an idea behind the culture that will be living in the area. Then my approach tends to follow similar patterns in our own world with the names taking on specific cultural flavors and even spellings (i.e. Lac de SomethingorAnother instead of Lake of SomethingorAnother). And just as Gandwarf said, not everything needs a name. The places that need names are those that will be of interest or play some important role in the grand scheme of things.

    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.

  10. #10


    i find it hard to imagine a map i live in flordia there isnt much terrain variation so when i wirte about mountains or what not i cant imagine things here the only impressive thing here are the sinkholes

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