Well we all start out somewhere, and this is where my trip down the digital mapping lane started out, some ten years ago. It might not be exactly ten years ago, but something like that is probably true. But in one way this trip started out even earlier than that.
I still remember when I was 15 years old and I bought the adventure Svavelvinter (Brimstone winter) for the Swedish RPG Drakar och Demoner (Dragons and Demons). It was the first part in a series of adventures that told the story of the fifth conflux, a specific moment in time that would give the person who controlled it the power to change the order of the world.
One of many places that the adventurers visited in the series was the city Tricilve, the capital of the country Trakorien. A large city that was as corrupt as Rome ever was during the Roman republic. So a very good place for some great adventures.
Some years later, you have to fast forward some 15 years, I got to know Erik Granström, who once wrote those adventures. From him I learned that he was writing a book in the same setting as the adventures. After some discussions we agreed on that I would make a map for him of Tricilve that he could use as help while writing the book.
At this moment in time I didn’t really know much about digital mapping, but I had an old Wacom tablet that I used and a copy of Photoshop. As you can see in the map it is quite crude, and I do wish that I one day would have the time to do a new version of it, just to see the progress of my mapping skills.
But the map filled its purpose, Erik had some great help of it while writing the book, and since Fria ligan (a Swedish RPG company) released the RPG Svavelvinter, based on the book that is based on the RPG adventure, there is actually an updated version of the map. However I’m not the one who made it, but I wish it was because it is a very lovely map.
What makes up a great map? That is a question I often ponder on. When I make my maps I always try to make more than just a map, I try to make a story. One of the first fantasy maps I came in contact with while growing up was the map in lord of the rings. And just by looking at that map you could see stories unfold. You could follow the rivers, the forests, mountain ranges, everywhere strange names. It took some time between me finding the map and me reading the book. But before starting on the book I already knew a lot about the world, just by looking at the map.
That is how I want my maps when I make them, I want them to tell stories. The more you look at the map the more things should start to unfold in front of your eyes, make you follow the rivers, finding the kingdoms, the wastelands. I want my maps to be like a library of imagination.
Another challenge is when someone else want you to make a map for them. I’m always flattered when people contact me and they want me to do that. They are actually trusting me that I shall make a map of something from their imagination, and of course I want that to be as good as possible. It is always hard to create something that someone already might have a clear view of what it should look like. Usually you have to meet somewhere in between, and it is always easier to make a map if you know a bit of the story. And if you know a bit of the story you can put that into the map.
The map at the top of this post is a commission I made for the Chronicles of Lo-Hin, you can read more about that by visiting their homepage. The client had a clear view on what he wanted and after a while we agreed on using Jon Roberts Overland style from Profantasy’s March annual in 2011. Personally that style is my favorite overland style that has been released for Campaign cartographer 3 (CC3). All symbols in the style are absolutely gorgeous, so when my client asked me to do some custom symbols that would fit into the style I nearly freaked out and thought, that wont be possible. But I gave it a try and I must say that I’m quite pleased with the result. Can you spot them?
I worked quite a lot on getting the style the way I and my client wanted, I’ve tweaked the style a bit in Photohop by applying some filters and textures to give it the feeling we were after. This is also the first map where I decided to make the rivers in Photoshop instead of CC3. The reason for this is that I wanted the rivers to look more natural. If you make the rivers in CC3 you get a curved line that has the same width all the way. I wanted the width to differ in size, that would make the rivers look more alive.
Also I wanted the map to have a lot of details that you had to look for, details that together would want your imagination to start telling you a story. So it wouldn’t be just a map but something more. Did I succeed with that? Well that is for you to tell.