View Poll Results: Map versus Story

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  • Map comes first

    10 40.00%
  • Story comes first

    15 60.00%
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Thread: Map versus Story

  1. #1
    Guild Artisan LonewandererD's Avatar
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    Jun 2009

    Question Map versus Story

    Story vs Map. Okay, I'm sure this has come up before. I did a search on this and found some topics that were like this but didn't quite answer my question.

    I know I'm not alone when I say that "building the world" that a map is set in is just as fun as making the map itself; by building i mean creating things like cultures and history and stuff. The problem is that while my maps get put together at a reasonable pace I've not yet got my world down track just yet, and when I make a change to that story the map is normally rendered obsolete/inaccurate. I'm sure alot of people have been annoyed at some point at having created or knowing of a world being created and then having it scrapped because of conflict between the story and the map, I'm especially guilty of this

    So before I actually try and do a map that will actually get to the finished map section I wanted to know what the forum's opinion on the matter is. Should the story come first and then the map adapted to that, or should the map come first and the story adapted?

    Last edited by LonewandererD; 01-17-2010 at 10:36 AM. Reason: spelling mistakes
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  2. #2
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!


    for me. Map First. as I draw the map, my imagination starts to flow, and I start thinking....'Hmmmm...what's in that wood? And those mountains, what secrets do they overlook, and just how many ships crashed on those jagged rocks...."
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  3. #3
    Guild Artisan Facebook Connected Rythal's Avatar
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    Apr 2009
    Toronto, Ontario


    I'd say story. That is, if you want it to be more than a generic barbarian hero kills big green dragon with enchanted sword while saving elf princess. Not that those are bad, but its nice to have some originality. let your story create your world, not vice versa

    imo, at least.

  4. #4
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Jul 2007


    I'd say story first, but I definitely keep a map in mind as I'm working on the plots.

  5. #5
    Professional Artist Facebook Connected Coyotemax's Avatar
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    Jul 2009



    To me, the story helps drive the map, and the map helps drive the story.

    When i'm doing maps just because, i can't help but seeing stories evolve in them as I go. And when I'm making a map based on a story, the story is obviously a huge influence.

    So to me, the two processes are inseparable

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  6. #6


    For me it's a question of what the map/story are for, but they work in tandem. If you're writing a novel for example, then I would say the story drives the map, but by drawing the map as you go along you may find bits of the story that may not 'work' eg a journey that took 2 days by horse is a distance of 500 miles, so drawing sketch as you go along is invaluable. For RPGs I think the map can drive the story as much as the story drive the map as it will be the players that create the story anyway and from that point of view getting interesting locations etc should be a priority.

  7. #7
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    St. Charles, Missouri, United States


    I'd say make a rough map and do it fairly quick and easy. Then write your book. Then see how well the map fits the book and change accordingly. Sometimes the storyline requires more or less time to get from point A to point B and the map will change. Sometimes the story will require certain things to be in place that are not there currently so the map will change. It's a fact of life that any map that comes before the story will change. Being more of an artist and less of a writer the map comes first for me so every map I make I start stories in my head and that's where names and unique features come up and get put in.

    Also look at it this way, every time I do a commission I ask for a rough sketch. That means the writer has written his stuff and has a better idea of the layout of the world than I do and probably has that idea roughly in his head while writing and that image changes to fit his story as he writes. Since you're the writer and artist do a simple map sketch first and then write. Once you have a section nailed down or a chapter written then go back to the map and flesh it out some more in detail.

    In the end either way works just fine.
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  8. #8
    Guild Artisan Juggernaut1981's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Sydney Australia


    I write the plot (big picture, few details just the big key points), sketch out a map (making sure I have the key elements detailed), flesh out the plot & map simultaneously.

    The Big WIP project I'm working on is actually digitising a map I did across 3 or 4 A4 grid-paper sheets about 8 years ago. The guys I was playing with loved the plot and I wasn't up to speed with computerised drawing at that time, so they were living with my "pen line and pencil line" maps on grid paper. Super-lo-fi, but effective.
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  9. #9

    Post Inseparable, agreed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coyotemax View Post

    To me, the story helps drive the map, and the map helps drive the story.

    When i'm doing maps just because, i can't help but seeing stories evolve in them as I go. And when I'm making a map based on a story, the story is obviously a huge influence.

    So to me, the two processes are inseparable
    This - I'm in complete agreement. I'll have to admit that I am a mapper first, but as many of us also part author, game master, illustrator. For me its a collaborative process with all levels of creative arts - that's what makes fantasy maps such an exciting task in practice. I'm kind of a visual guy, so when I know the story, I see it in my head like a movie. Where one's place is located at any given time within the story is intrinsic to some location on a map, or an encounter scale map. The story and the map are one in the same. The creative processes embarked on one aspect integrates the other simultaneously. Eventually the written dominates the time element of course, but I see the map in my mind, while I write the story.

    It's difficult for me to separate the two, even ideologically.

    Still, I voted "story" first, as the seed of an idea is needed, even for a map - that seed is story.

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  10. #10
    Guild Adept loogie's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    Strathroy, ON


    Well, for me its generally story, but that doesn't mean a map doesn't come first... For the most part a map is really required, at least a quick rough sketch...

    We need to remember thats maps become out of date as soon as their made, so for every story a map will only be accurate for a tiny portion of it... So, if the map is rendered obselete because of story evolution (a city is taken over, a drought dries up a lake)... then that is to be expected... but if you change a place name, or the locations, or cultures, thats where you run into a problem... and thats where a rough sketch map comes in handy, since its lays out the basics before you start anything, it will highlight the guidelines to what your doing, and you know (if you decide to keep the rough sketch as law) that whats on the rough map won't change...
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