The easy answer to this is that it’s always easier to get inspiration for a map if you have a story around it. When you start to fill your imaginary worlds with life, death and adventures everything seems so much more interesting. And with interest comes creativity to evolve your work.
So Etrakien has been around for quite some time, slowly evolving into a rather dark and sinister place, but not without its shiny good hearted places. While the story around the world has evolved so has the map as well. There are a couple of different versions of the world, part of the latest one depicted at the top of this post.
Once you have a world to draw inspiration from it’s easy to find different objects to map, like cities, dungeons, countries, mines, catacombs. The list can be made as long as you desire.
For me the whole Etrakien universe started out with a map of a northern region named Nordheim. I thought of it as a safe haven for people escaping war and famine in the south. Even though life in Nordheim was harsh and in many ways bleak it was still better than a life in a land badly scarred by wars.
Soon I started to think of where all the people came from and names of countries like The Empire of Etrakien, Arnor, Ankh-Bathor and Krug came to life. What was the war about? Why did they fight? An idea of a struggling Empire trying to keep its grasp of the known world, but failing in all directions started to evolve. Old alliances where broken, savages from the northern woods came flooding in with death in its path.
As you can see one thing led to another and after some years of mapping the world has stabilised, the fallen empire still exists licking its wound and looking for an opportunity to re-establish its power in the world. But new kingdoms have risen from the ashes of the burned and scarred lands, new allies have been made and none of them have an interest in an old power regaining its strength.
And this world just screams for another map!