This is the first of a series of posts discussing the the intended themes of the blog.
To me, a significant part of the inspiration and enjoyment of role-playing, especially from the DM’s side of the screen, is the maps! All kinds of maps, from world-spanning vistas to detailed regional views, city maps, dungeon maps, battle maps – when I pick up a new product or source-book, the very first thing I look at are the maps. That is what inspires me to think of the stories and possibilities for adventure that find their way into my game.
The inspiration that set me on this path was the fantastic maps in the various Narnia and Tolkien tomes – right from when my father read us kids The Hobbit and Narnia stories at a fairly young age, through to reading (and re-reading) the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion in my early teenage years. I certainly remember hours spent drawing my own world maps, and populating them with strange creatures, way before I’d ever heard of D&D!
I remember my excitement when the original Forgotten Realms boxed set was announced – my introduction to this setting came with Dragon Magazine #74, and the ‘Seven Swords’ article by Ed Greenwood – the evocative ‘Lore’ sections name-checking many of the to-become famous lands of the Realms firmly made me a major fan – finally we would get to ‘see’ the Realms! The maps didn’t disappoint, and were pored over countless times, following the stories and adventures of Elminster’s world.
Right from my early days as a DM, mapping was what I spent a huge amount of my time on. As my home-brew world developed, I defined a mapping system comprising World Maps (at 80 miles per ‘square’), Area Maps (at 10 miles per hex) and Area Detail Maps (at 5 miles per hex). This consumed many happy hours, creating maps like the example shown:
Fast forward 20 years and of course there have been huge advances in the mapping technology available to role-players. I’ve been using Campaign Cartographer 3 from www.profantasy.com to re-create my world maps. This is a huge job, as the software takes a fair amount of effort to get used to, but once you do its possible to turn out some good work! I also can’t recommend Profantasy’s Cartographer’s Annual series enough. This monthly subscription over the last 4 years has provided many add-on tools and styles to create excellent looking maps – without this I think an artistically challenged mapper like myself would have given up long ago! One recent style was a old-school hex-mapping style, which I’m using to re-do all my hand-drawn maps e.g:
You will recognise that this is the same map as the background of the blog – chosen because it was of the key (and best mapped!) areas of my Tolrendor campaign way back then. The style is delightfully reminiscent of the Greyhawk maps, another great classic TSR boxed set, where the poster maps made thier way onto my bedroom wall!
There are a number of other great (more modern) styles that I’m experimenting with and hope to have some examples to share here soon!
In summary, maps and everything associated with them are going to be a key part of this blog!