Over the past week I had come to the decision, with a little encouragement, to release the full resolution version of my Myth map. Now, this might not seem too relevant, but as I quickly summarize my process and decision-making it might help you flesh out your own world-building process. You can feel free to use these maps for your own fantasy RPG--better than the generic D&D worlds, in my vitriolic opinion--or you can just use this as inspiration for one GM's process for map-making and world-building. First, a reminder of the official map with which I started:
I love this map. It's characterful and has a great texture to it, and the cartography does a great job of evoking the hand-made qualities of ancient map-making. Tolkien-forgive-me, but I think I like looking at this map more than most of the original Middle Earth maps. At the same time, however, it's an incredibly game-y and contrived map. Maps traditionally fit as much detail as possible into a confined space, and the sort of large gaps that define the map above would normally be indicative of a wild, uncharted region. And in the lore of Myth, that doesn't quite jive. So I'm left with a map that is attractive and evocative, but that at the same time pulls me back and says it's a game map.
When I sat down to change the world map, then, I wanted to ensure that there'd be a good and representative density to the map. If something was particularly bare, I wanted that bareness to say something about the setting. My tweak of the map was also going to be perfectly consistent: every civilized settlement of more than two thousand people would be on the map. This would assuage my anal-retentive GM obsessive compulsion, and it would mean that I could use the settlements on the map to estimate the population of the free world--very useful when your major antagonist is on a ten year plan to make it all burn. And finally, I wanted the map to be functional for journey-charting for the party. So this meant that as dense as I might make it, the map would still need to have enough space to mark it up.
Step one was figuring out the scale of the official Myth map. In The Fallen Lords, there's a quote that a runner from Willow traveled fourteen hundred miles to Rhi'anon. Of course, the quote might be dead reckoning or it might estimate the path the runner took. More useful, however, is another line that says Silvermines is one hundred miles away from Bagrada, the southernmost pass through the Cloudspine mountains. That let me scale the map and feel confident in slapping a scale key on it. Then, in determining how big the map would physically be, I wanted the map to be overlaid with a one-inch hex grid. Based on the width of the regions represented, I decided to make each hex 20 miles across. This would be an average day's travel, so for convenience the party might travel 1 hex per day.
The next major creative hurdle was filling in all the details. And that meant kicking up the number of named settlements on the map from about a dozen on the official map up to over 150 on the oh-my-gosh-how-long-does-Ben-plan-on-running-this-campaign map. First I had to add lots of small rivers and lakes to the map, though, because pre-industrial villages generally gravitate towards bodies of water. Yes, I really thought that far ahead. Once I had plunked down all the little land features however, I had a list of about 200 geographic sites waiting to be named. Poop. I hate being me. This is when a sane person would seek help and try to overcome their obsessive tendencies. But I just called it good GMing and started categorizing each feature by fictional ethnicity parallel. Yep, that simple. For instance, the Cath Bruig are the dominant human ethnicity in the setting. They have a number of character and place names gleaned from Celtic and Gaelic folklore, so I started pulling a list of other names I liked from there. I also happen to be madly in love with the Welsh language though, and it gives my inner sadist a GM-happy whenever I watch my players try to pronounce Welsh names, so I threw a ton of Welsh-inspired locations in the middle region of the map. The west was going to be a semi-independent former colony of the Cath Bruig, so I went the English route by bastardizing and crassifying the Bruig language to populate the Province. Yes, I meant to say crassifying. The northern tribes were straight-up Norse in their influence, and the easternmost kingdom of Gower was built around my wiki-knowledge of historical Turkish traditions. The dwarf kingdom and the forest kingdom of The Ermine required me to extrapolate my own language conventions based on what little we get in the official lore, in order to create a consistent standard.
Overall, it's a lot of work, and if you end up using it for your own games I'd love to hear that my GM lunacy saved you at least a little effort. So here's the long-previewed full resolution Myth map.
|With Hex Grid overlay added|
Note that I had kept this world map secret from my players until their characters bought a regional map at the first market town they came upon. This helped to reinforce the feudal ignorance I wanted to emphasize in my game, helped keep the players from feeling too overwhelmed, and made for a nice one-page print-up at full-resolution.
And yes, as I've reviewed the map for this post, it's dawned on me that I need to add more details here and there. I'm a sick, sick nerd.
UPDATE 7/31/2013: if the above images still aren't big enough for you, try this link.