August 2nd, 2021

kodama

RPGaDay #2: Map

I love maps, of both real and imagined places. I love to see how things relate in space, and how seeing the layout of something allows you to make plans. When I was much younger and I could get my hands on one of the old MERP modules, those maps of areas of Middle Earth with lots of stuff going on, always fascinated me. I really admire Pete Fenlon’s work on them: he developed his own distinct style, that many games to this day instantly recognise.

But there is a bit of a trap with maps in RPGs, especially if it’s a map with a low scale: it invites players to ‘think inside the box’. But the map is not the territory, and unless you are playing an RPG with tactical movement, it’s detrimental to the experience. That’s why I prefer relatively abstract maps that show where things are in relation to other things, but no precise measurements or too much detail. Maps with abstracted ‘zones of movement’ are pretty cool in that respect — like Ryuutama’s front and back areas, or the system I’m implementing in Fearless.

I bought Campaign Cartographer to help me make maps. There are some really cool maps made with it — and yet, if I use the exact same style and then try to make my own map, it always seems to fall flat. I don’t know what it is, but it’s kinda vexing. Maybe I should invest the time to follow along with a detailed tutorial or something, because maybe I skip a step?

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.