Fictional Map Creation

The BraysterThe Brayster UKRegistered User regular
Hey guys,

So I'm currently writing up some fiction with the intent of possibly releasing it as a novel. As it is Original Fiction (as in, not set on our Earth) I thought it would be quite handy to produce a map of the setting, the kind you normally find at the very front or very back of a Fantasy Novel.

My problem lies in that I have no real artistic skill to speak of. At the moment I have a crude drawing which is effectively a misshapen circle with some dots and crude lines scribbled over it, which I use as a basic reference of geography.

What I'd like to know, however, is whether anyone knows of any software or online tool that would help produce this kind of thing?

Steam: TheBrayster
PSN: TheBrayster_92

Posts

  • BlazeFireBlazeFire Registered User regular
    I think @Enc does maps?

    EncXaquin
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Why yes, Hello!

    I do this! Indeed, I made an entire setting with over 300 maps to date because I wanted my world to become fleshed out beyond my mind (see the link in my signature if you want examples).

    There are three ways you can go about having your dreams come true:
    1. Hire somebody to do it for you. This is very expensive! Maps take hours upon hours upon hours of time. Lots of detail work from the artist, and even more for you as you have to define and name every feature on the map. Not many artists will do it and, now that i'm 5 years in, I totally understand why. I don't take commissions these days because in order to match my hourly rate it quickly becomes unbearable. Younger/newer artists hungry for work are frequently more affordable. In this route, I would check out the Cartographer's Guild website. It has hundreds of amazing mapmakers and more than a few seeking commissions.
    2. Make maps yourself! I started with things that looked like this and this. Now I make things that look like this and this! That took thousands of hours over five years! But now whenever I need a map for D&D or for a NaNoWriMo i'm working on, I can do it myself without problems. I use photoshop, sketchup, blender, and occasionally some other things. It's pretty expensive in time and effort, but I even make a bit of coin off of my hobby each month. So it works out.
    3. Option three: Cheat! Software like Inkarnate can get you a quick and pretty map that looks just like every other Inkarnate map in style and quality. I personally hate Inkarnate maps because they are a developmental bottleneck that once you hit the cap there is no way to truly improve. But for lots of folks not interested in developing their ability to make maps, they are a pretty amazing tool. I play in a D&D game with a world map from this and it is very pretty and pretty neat, and only took the author an hour or so to make.

    If you decide to make yourself maps, feel free to send me a PM. I'd be happy to give you some tips and tricks on what I do in photoshop to get started.

    The BraysterXaquinbowenLord PalingtondavidsdurionsLostNinjaArbitraryDescriptordoomybearSmrtnikchrishallett83TofystedethchromdomArmorocShadowfire3lwap0
  • The BraysterThe Brayster UKRegistered User regular
    All of that is outstanding advice, thank you for taking the time!

    I'll keep all of that in mind, and I'll try to remember you/this thread if I have any further queries!

    Steam: TheBrayster
    PSN: TheBrayster_92
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited July 2017
    Actually, I'm giving tips ANYWAY. That's what you get for lighting the Enc Signal. Here's a process of a commission I did a long time ago for @Grunt's Ghosts:

    ironlinecommissiongif.gif

    The hardest part of making an image is that first step. Rendering the landmasses is where it is make it or break it. Take the time and consider how your topography works. Some basic study in earth science is recommended (even just an hour or two in wikipedia about biomes). Some basic things to look out for so that you aren't violating the worst laws of fictional cartography:
    • Water flows down the path of least resistance! If you have a lake 2 miles from the coast, and want it to connect to a river on the other side of your world, why would it possibly do that? Maybe you have some crazy cliff systems, but even still. Think about how water flows when planning your rivers, and when you make strange bends and things you feel are needed for your plot, think about the objects that cause them!
    • Rivers join, never divide. Water follows the easier of two paths, it wont take two.
    • Draw tectonic plates (in your mind) before layering your landmasses and mountains. Tolkien's Mordor Box is dumb. There. I said it. Someone had to. Mountains don't form lovely little battlements or hedge mazes!
    • Forests grow in biomes, and most places tend to be forested until people cut down the forests. Dragonlance style elf forest areas are also dumb. Hey the only place with woods is Quillanesti - bullshit. Put forests everywhere unless you give yourself a reason for forests not to be there (lack of water, human fields and habitations, etc.)
    • Civilizations live where there is 1) Water, 2) Food, 3) Shelter from the worst things your fictional world has to offer. Make sure there are all three!

    I'll have more later, but thats enough to get started!

    Enc on
    bowenThe BraysterSleepLord PalingtonKen OLostNinjaSmrtnikNightDragonBloodySlothchrishallett83MaguanoTofystedethAldospool32chromdomArmorocShadowfire
  • SleepSleep Registered User regular
    Thanks for this thread. I've been working in a relatively small portion of my world for a while but i think i need to start fleshing it out into a grander geography some map building tips are awesome, though i may run into some of that bullshit fantasy topology for the main fact that the gods fucked the planet way back in the day.

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    So that's a great point. It's your world, if a place needs to be a certain way, make it a certain way! But also make the world react to it.

    So, if a god wanted to make Mordor-mountain walls, how would that wreck the precipitation and geology of the surrounding countryside? Creating a horizontal line of mountains is going to wreck at least one side of that ridge from having ready-flow water. Look at the ranges around California, for example. Water comes up from the Pacific and then hits the mountains, falls with the updrafts, and doesn't usually make it to Nevada, creating a massive dry desert. So lets say a god raises mountains in a box, unless there is a font of water inside inexplicably/magically it will be dusty and dry.

    Conversely, lets say a god raises a plateau in a desert. More likely than not rain will actually occur on the plateau due to the wind currents so plants and such might be possible there! Arizona's desert biomes are a good example of this, the higher up plateaus can support various draught-tolerant pine forests but not the lower areas.

    With civilizations, if you have played Civilization 1-6 what do you immediately do with your cities? You look for a place to build with those three things (food, water, shelter) so you can grow. Historically, rivers tend to be the places where people live but there are other factors to consider. In Spain and Italy, for example, constant invasions and wars actually drove cities away from better sites near rivers to be on high, flat hills to be more fortified against attack. They are still very close to water and airable land, but they chose to dwell beyond it for their capitals to prevent sacking. If you have a culture that is in one of those invasion areas, moving them farther from rivers may be a good idea!

    In the US, invasion wasn't really a concern as we were the invading culture, so as we wanted the fastest way for commerce nearly every major settlement on the east coast was on a river or sheltered bay or inlet for easy boat access. In early-modern Europe, the opposite occured at first due to Viking invasions sacking most of the river places.

    These sorts of things flesh out your world. Where people are is always driven by why, and both of those things create the who. Who lives on this island? Well where do they live? At the top of an active volcano? What threats or benefits sent them there? The forest is filled with man eating dinosaurs that die in the volcanic fumes. Sure! I'll buy that. Or maybe they have a technology that uses those fumes. Maybe the island is in the arctic regions of your world and that volcano provides a dangerous, but desperately needed, warmth needed for shelter and growing food.

    Swamps & Marshes: Hey, there are more than one kind of these and where they form is important. Swamps are not marshes. Neither are moors. Learn the difference and have a better world. Nothing irritates a reader who actually lives in a swamp than finding out its actually a barren, treeless salt marsh.

    Deserts tend to form at specific places on earth-like planets (well, or at least on earth). Specifically, they generally are about 20-40% off of the equator, and those areas around the equator are densely forested and have a lot of rainfall. Desert islands of any size are often pretty rare unless there are mountains that block rainfall (such as Australia).

    Other things may follow!

    ElvenshaeRhesus PositivechromdomShadowfire
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited July 2017
    One more thought: Economy!

    So you have the CIV 1-6 comment of where you build your cities. Aside from food, water and shelter there occasionally is a fourth place people live when those other three things are well satisfied in a nation: on luxury resources.

    Got mithril? Is mithril found in this here mountain area? Well, heck. I'll build a colony to mine that and name it Moria. Of course, that mine isnt going to be my capital, because living in a mine sucks and mines tend to make a LOT of filth that the aristocracy probably doesn't want to live in. So Lets say my capital is Loney Mountain. I'm gonna make damn sure there is an actual usable road and probably a long AND WELL FORTIFIED series of towns and garrisons to ensure my precious Morian Mithril reaches Lonely Mountain for my flourishing economy. That forest has got to go. Or, at minimum, I'm going to make a road that isn't a maze with a river that makes you forget your job is to deliver my goddamn mithril halfway through complete with road-rangers with insecticide to handle those pesky spiders.

    "But elves have a nation between me and my mithril!" - you might complain. Certainly it was their forest!

    Well, not for long, bucko. Or that mithril isn't going to be yours. Wars are more often fought over luxury resource control and access than for anything else (and before you say religion, most of those religious wars were about the resources the cultures wanted; Jerusalem also controlled a good bit of the spice trade for much of it's history, for example). Want to come up with a reason two nations are fighting? Put some mines or extremely fertile farmland between them.

    Alternatively, maybe the Elves have a thriving trade pact with the dwarves becauce, lets face it, mining sucks if you are an elf. Dwarves similarly feel the same way about field work. Hey, what if we trade our groceries for your mithril and everyone can be happy! Sure. But those kind of deals fall apart real quick with Gimli Trump appears and blames the recent lack of new ore seams on the Elves. Make Moria Great again. Whelp, time for another war.

    Population economy is also important. How ~did~ Mordor field massive armies of Orcs? We see that have a strong industrial sector, but where the hell were they getting the wheat for their inferior "maggoty bread" we see the orcs slowly starve with when not foraging for man-flesh. Mordor clearly couldn't grow it, it was a dustbowl in the book and by any form of logic. Well, maybe they traded with the Haradrim for food, Near Harad was semi-tropical. If so, what did they trade? Cheaply made, mass produced garbage weaponry? Hrm. Why would they buy it?

    "Well maybe Sauron was just compelling them to do it," you might say.

    So then there needs to be some very established trade roads and Mordorian dominating fortifications in Haradrim to collect and move the food to their lovely dustbowl mountain box for food. Which means 1) a pass, 2) lots of people to do that moving, and 3) even more animals to do the carting.

    I assume for every orc you see at the battle of Minas Tirith looking metal as fuck in their fucked up metal armor, there are at least 3-10 in overalls leading teamsters of trolls pulling carts from the south to feed that army (oh, wait a minute. What do the trolls eat? Hrmmmm).

    Economy defines a lot also! It is defined by your landscape, and can help fill in those cultural gaps that develop when there are problems in your plots.

    Enc on
    chrishallett83ThundyrkatzSmrtnikTofystedethspool32Jebus314chromdomShadowfire
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    That's probably it for now. Probably too much. But I hope it might be a bit helpful in your world building!

    The BraysterElvenshaeAnon the FelonArbitraryDescriptorchrishallett83Jebus314
  • The BraysterThe Brayster UKRegistered User regular
    edited July 2017
    Truly, a fascinating read!

    The Brayster on
    Steam: TheBrayster
    PSN: TheBrayster_92
    ShogunElvenshaeKetarBloodySlothchrishallett83TofystedethJebus314Rhesus PositivechromdomShadowfire
  • Dis'Dis' Registered User regular
    Enc wrote: »
    Tolkien's Mordor Box is dumb. There. I said it. Someone had to. Mountains don't form lovely little battlements or hedge mazes!!

    The Tarim Basin and the Afar Depression say hi!

    (I very much agree with you, just poking fun ;))

  • MadicanMadican No face Registered User regular
    Clearly the trolls eat orcs. And the orcs also eat orcs, with trolls if they can manage it. Cannibalism, the answer to a self-sufficient food source and bonus population control!

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    It does make you wonder (in a very grim, morbid way) how long a cannibalism-only culture can last before resource exhaustion. I would assume probably less than a generation, but who knows.

  • FiendishrabbitFiendishrabbit Registered User regular
    Enc wrote: »
    Rivers join, never divide. Water follows the easier of two paths, it wont take two.

    River Bifurcation is a thing. It's rare (outside deltas), but it's a thing that happens.
    With civilizations, if you have played Civilization 1-6 what do you immediately do with your cities? You look for a place to build with those three things (food, water, shelter) so you can grow. Historically, rivers tend to be the places where people live but there are other factors to consider. In Spain and Italy, for example, constant invasions and wars actually drove cities away from better sites near rivers to be on high, flat hills to be more fortified against attack. They are still very close to water and airable land, but they chose to dwell beyond it for their capitals to prevent sacking. If you have a culture that is in one of those invasion areas, moving them farther from rivers may be a good idea!

    In the US, invasion wasn't really a concern as we were the invading culture, so as we wanted the fastest way for commerce nearly every major settlement on the east coast was on a river or sheltered bay or inlet for easy boat access. In early-modern Europe, the opposite occured at first due to Viking invasions sacking most of the river places.

    The location of a city is almost directly related to how dominant that nation was at the time the city grew into the largest city around.

    In the early middle-ages the vikings were dominant as fuck on the seas, with the Danish vikings being the most powerful of them all. Hence many of the dominant scandinavian cities at the time (Roskilde, Ribe, Oslo, Trondheim, Stockholm etc) lie in deep water bays. Protects ships from the weather, excellent for trading, usually decently defensive (especially Swedish towns as Denmark was the dominant northern power until the 17th century) but not necessarily so. This was the ideal defensive location for a dominant sea power, since you couldn't lay an effective siege if the city could be supplied/reinforced from the sea.
    Conversly all continental (and english except those founded by vikings) major cities are located a fair distance upriver (London, Hamburg, Bremen, Paris etc). The most successful example is Paris, which is located upriver and with several fortress towns (like Rouen) blocking river access way before you can reach the capital.

    Down in the mediterranean we have a mix of Roman cities (like Alexandria, Nice, Genoa and Istanbul) which are located on the coast, but were founded in an era where the ruling civilization was dominant as hell, and cities which werent like Rome and Athens (both are located on hills with separate harbour towns, Ostia and Pireus).

    Venice is an exception, but old venice was basically a fortified island/marsh. There weren't any place to land troops so as long as the city had willing defenders it simply couldn't be taken. The surrounding islands made besieging it from the sea an even tougher job.

    "The western world sips from a poisonous cocktail: Polarisation, populism, protectionism and post-truth"
    -Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden
    ElvenshaeEncThe BraysterTofystedeth
  • AstaerethAstaereth In the belly of the beastRegistered User regular
    I attended a panel of fantasy authors once and the question of maps came up. Their secret? Start with a real map (or even a favorite fictional one) and turn it upside down.

    ACsTqqK.jpg
    bowenTofystedethDaenrisArbitraryDescriptorRhesus PositiveMr Ray
  • Alistair HuttonAlistair Hutton Dr EdinburghRegistered User regular
    On the subject of forests, fuck yeah. One of the things Games Workshop did incredibly right in their Old World setting is that the Empire consists of thin strips of civilisation along rivers and the over land is basically one giant forest.

    Coach roads either follow the rivers or take perilous forest routes if you are desperate and short of time.

    I have a thoughtful and infrequently updated blog about games http://whatithinkaboutwhenithinkaboutgames.wordpress.com/

    I made a game, it has penguins in it. It's pay what you like on Gumroad.

    Currently Ebaying Nothing at all but I might do in the future.
    Enc
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Astaereth wrote: »
    I attended a panel of fantasy authors once and the question of maps came up. Their secret? Start with a real map (or even a favorite fictional one) and turn it upside down.

    Robin Hobb was on this panel, wasn't she?

  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    Holy shit Enc. I have tried to make some maps before and made fkin respect to you for those.

    ElvenshaeAuralynxThe BraysterBloodySlothdavidsdurionsMegatinEncShadowfire
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited August 2017
    The Brayster asked for some details on my process beyond the animated gif, so I tried making a video! I'm not very good at it:



    But I hope it is useful!

    Enc on
    ElvenshaeAuralynxchrishallett83Bloodsheeddispatch.oRendtastydonutsm!ttensShadowfire
  • The BraysterThe Brayster UKRegistered User regular
    Enc, you continue to go above and beyond expectations. Thank You, I feel much more enlightened!

    Steam: TheBrayster
    PSN: TheBrayster_92
    3lwap0
  • Mongrel IdiotMongrel Idiot Registered User regular
    A trick I tried once that spit out some tolerablle coastlines was to scatter a bunch of raw pasta (I used bowties) across some paper and loosely trace the edges. Gave some nice, crinkly coastlines. Filled in the mountains and rivers and I had myself a map. Don't have a scan, so I can't post it, but it worked out alright.

    0sgEp4R.jpg?1
  • The BraysterThe Brayster UKRegistered User regular
    A trick I tried once that spit out some tolerablle coastlines was to scatter a bunch of raw pasta (I used bowties) across some paper and loosely trace the edges. Gave some nice, crinkly coastlines. Filled in the mountains and rivers and I had myself a map. Don't have a scan, so I can't post it, but it worked out alright.

    Well I guess I know what I'm doing when I get home

    Steam: TheBrayster
    PSN: TheBrayster_92
    Mongrel IdiotElvenshaetastydonuts
Sign In or Register to comment.