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World-Creating and Mapping Part 1

Copyright 2000 by Anna M. Dobritt.

Creating a roleplaying world and mapmaking go hand-in-hand. For the mapping of your world, you should have some graph paper or plain old typing paper, a pencil, eraser and some colored pencils. For the text portion of your world, a notebook and pen come in handy to keep your notes organized. (Trust me on this, keeping organized right from the beginning will save you a great deal of time.)

Now, when you begin to design your world, you need to decide whether you will draw the entire world at once, or start with a specific region and expand that as you go along. For those of you who love to go into detail right from the get-go, you can start with the birth of the world, the emergence of the various gods and goddesses and what their relationship is to each other; then go on to the emergence of the various races that will dwell on your world. There is no right or wrong way of creating a world, since each person has their own preference. The important thing is that you like doing such things, allowing the creative process free rein.

I prefer starting with a single region and working outwards. I start with a rough map of the region, placing rivers, lakes, hills, mountains, and forests. Then I decide where to place various cities, towns, villages, hamlets, fortresses, and ruins. With these in place, it's a simple matter of drawing the roads and deciding how far apart communities will be. For this, I use how far a horse and rider can go in one day, which I think is around 30 miles (please don't ask me what this is in kilometers, I flunked metric conversion way back in high school.) One thing you should remember in drawing a map of a region: forests, lakes, rivers, mountain ranges and roads can all go right to the edge of the paper. This helps to give the effect of this one map being part of a larger one.

Once you have things roughed in for the map, take up your notebook and start thinking of names for the places. I find that the hardest part. Trying to come up with enough different names. There are a number of name generator programs available on the internet if you're having difficulty with this.

Blade Bright!

Key Tips I Got Out Of This Article:

  • Keep a notebook handy when making maps to quickly write ideas down as you get them
  • Decide to draw the whole world or just a specific region first
  • Put communities about 1 day's horse ride apart from each other
  • Feel free to place forests, mountains, rivers, etc. right at the edge of your map
  • Do your place-naming all at once to save time and to make it easier