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Thread: maps and building a world

  1. #11
      NeonKnight is offline
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    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!


    Ok, I'll wade here.

    When I am mapping, especially my old World, the World of Auren, I named things, but only in the grossest sense. In other words, I named those really, really LARGE things. To put it in perspective, when you look at a map of lets say just North America, you can expect to see the following named:

    Atlantic Ocean
    Pacific Ocean
    Rockie Mountains.
    Hudson Bay
    Gulf of Mexico
    Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie & Ontario,

    (See this map here:

    In otherwords, only the really 'noticable things'. See the map Auren-SW-1 to get an idea. So, I have named the really large noticable things, and a major city or two per nation.

    Yet, when I was making plans to go in further at the moment, most of these maps are pen-paper), I was naming areas like straights, creeks, hills, individual mountains of importance, towns, villages, thorps, woods, forests, plains, fens, etc.

    As for naming, well, that is a whole other topic
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  2. #12
      Ascension is offline
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    St. Charles, MO


    I do the same, start with the biggest things and work my way down until it starts to look cluttered...whether it be mountains or rivers, cities or labels. I'll put in a whole slew of city sizes then draw roads to connect the biggest and work toward the smallest until it starts getting cluttered. For names, I usually make them up but sometimes I'll use a name generator when I'm just not feeling creative.
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  3. #13
      Trace is offline
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    Mar 2009


    For me I grid my maps with the primary starting map in the center, because to my view; where you start is the center of the world. I then just expand outward.

    Details: for my primary map, I put in a good bit of information because that is what my players will be needing, the greater from the center the less information.

    Size: I like the Campaign Cartographer 800X1000 miles.

    Names: I try to keep things simple, the grey mountains, the troll lands, etc. but will also steal from my mythology for names. Rivers named after gods, leaders, or heros, etc.

  4. #14
      Pilias is offline
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    Apr 2009


    Quote Originally Posted by the931stsoldier View Post
    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?
    For me it depends on for the circumstances behind the map. Often, especially in my younger years, I would just draw a map because I was bored, then come up with the story. Often I would do a series of chronological political maps going back and forth in time showing how things changed (Especially in my Sci Fi universe), then come up with the reasons why they changed.

    Other times I had a need to create something on the spot and would do so, then go back and draw the map to fit in with what I had come up with, often I did this in gaming sessions because I generally dislike Campaign settings I didn't create (except Eberron).

    Still other times I was inspired by something I saw or heard and sat down to draw something based on it. This is the least common way I do maps though, at least direct inspiration.

    What I have done now that I have decades of maps filling up cabinets is I have begun to go through the maps and create worlds by meshing multiple smaller maps together, redrawing them to fit into the same world but using the old maps as inspiration. The current world I'm running/writing in is the culmination of roughly 12 years of work I did, mostly in my high school and early adult years.

    What this has allowed me to do is give a very different feel for the various parts of the world while keeping a fairly uniform set of laws that govern all of the physical aspects of the world.

  5. #15
      Trace is offline
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    Mar 2009



    Where to place things. I just place, not worring about stuff like plate tectonics for the most part but I do think about weather patterns, longitude & latitude. The best place to look for ideas is the real world, mountains less that 400 miles to the sea, should be active with volcanoes (don't have to be), rivers would run fast and may have flash floods. If a greater distance, you may have a greater number of deep water harbors at the mouths of the rivers.

    Weather patterns tell me where deserts may be to to high mountains, or seasonal rains. Longitude & latitude, some of the same but what plants and animals my be found in the area, even what the people may wear.

  6. #16
      Meridius is offline
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    Aug 2009
    Fryslân, Netherlands


    In general I start out by imagining different climates for my continent. Usually this already having some cultures in mind, but I try to keep the cultures clear until the basic form of the land is on paper.

    After that, I start dividing the land into culture-zones. Since my current mapping project is for an RPG (of which I've come to love the setting) it's a bit on a time-restraint. So cultures mostly have real-world (and fantasy) sources.

    At this point, I'm starting the naming process... Mainly oceans and countries/empires. I name them based on location, shape, features or location (Great Eastern Sea works fine). Sometimes an exotic sounding word pops to mind, and I slap it on somewhere.

    Now generally, when needing names fast, I go to wikipedia with a civilization in mind, and I look up actual real citynames. Sometimes even current cities. I also change them slightly, so that they sound and look similar, but are different.

    Other times, I look for online dictionaries (sometimes phonetic) to translate one or two words who sound right when strung together, and usually nice names form fairly quickly.

    The hardest names are for the civilization most similar to your own, for board purposes, let's keep it at English-sounding names. These can be functional like 'Oxford' describes a ford where oxen could cross the river. Or [rivername]bridge describes a place where a bridge over a river was built. Mixing up names is also a fun way to go.

    Finally, what really worked surprising wonders for me was asking a friend, who is completely not into the hobby to play for name-generator. He came up with a large number of good sounding and looking names which I could use.

    For RPG and regular mapping purposes I generally only generate names for major places. When I need a smaller place, I just generate it when needed. I live in a small country in the Netherlands, in one of the twelve provinces (one of the less densely populated ones). I counted 547 places for that province alone on an 'almost complete place name list'. That's a lot of names to generate for one out of twelve provinces in a country which disappears under your fingertip on the average world map. And then I'm not even talking about, lakes, streams, channels, fields and municipalities (31). Wanting to name everything on a realistic local scale is near impossible, or a lifework.

  7. #17
    Guild Novice savedbygrace's Avatar
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    Feb 2009


    Wow, lots of good suggestions here. I'll add my own for the archives and future searches. Figuring the lay of land is probably the most difficult aspect of mapping, e.g shoreline, bays, major waterways. Once thats done, Mountains become easier followed by lakes and streams(Don't forget the prospect of synthetic lakes where inhabitants have dammed the rivers...these can be added later) Then of course city placements and then roads. Forests can be grown practically anywhere.

    For naming things, as others stated already, don't crowd your map. Name the major regional areas, major watersources or waterways, forests, mountains ranges and laregr cities. Worry about the other stuff when you create blown up maps of specific areas(which usually accompany ideas of background that you may have)

    To find names...get on to google earth, zoom down to the point of seeing the names of streets, rivers, counties, etc. and then pick and choose the ones that speak to you about a certain area of your map. You could actually get some inspiration from looking at the view in google.

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