What? Old meme is old?
I was unhappy with the last map I had for the Ancient Lands and after having decided to give the world more of Planetary Romance feel (just without lasers and airships; think Jungle Dark Sun) I made this new one. I’ve been feeling quite happy about it for three days now and usually I think my great ideas are terrible the next morning. That I still like it is a strong indicator that it’s going to work. (Creating a good map is a bit like creating good names. You start with a “not completely terrible placeholder” and once you used it for a week or two you no longer think it needs to be changed.)
As you can see, it’s very bare bones. Much more simplified and abstract than previous maps that I made when I was thinking primarily from the perspective of an RPG campaign setting writer heavily influenced by the maps of the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Grayhawk. But now that I am looking at it more from the perspective of a Sword & Sorcery writer, maps of that kind really seem like total overkill. And even when you look at RPGs that are not D&D, a great number of them have maps that are just as much detailed as this one, if not even more simple. The only case where you really need a big map with satellite photo type detail is when you’re doing hexcrawling games. When you’re looking at campaigns and adventures that are more story driven and, dare I use the term, “cinematic”, you don’t really need a map. Star Wars doesn’t have maps. Indiana Jones and Mass Effect have maps that are no more detailed than this one. The maps of Conan and The Witcher are like this, and Kane and Barsoom don’t have any. Satellite photo maps are only useful when you’re tracking daily movement through trackless wilderness. Otherwise you can simply say “the party leaves the village and after a number of days they reach the city”.
If you remember earlier maps (I doubt I have any regular readers that devoted), you might notice that there are considerably fewer regions on this one than there had been before. This week I did a lot of consolidating and discarding redundancy, which did help quite a bit in making the world feel more crisp and having a sharper profile. Someone I mentioned this to quoted some French artist who said “Perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Which I can get behind. The number of different peoples is down from 20 to 12 with lizardmen being completely gone, monsters are down from 110 to 50, and I discarded all the gods of intermediate power between cosmic forces and local spirits of the land. It’s an animistic world after all. You don’t need the god of hunting. Hunters in any given place only need their spirit of hunting. And the same approach also went into redesigning the map.