This article is part of the Instant World Builder Project.
Instant World Builder #1: Maps
Drawing maps for a new campaign might be my favorite DM activity. It’s what I start with when I design worlds and campaigns. I am usually motivated, inspired and always surprised to see the plot hooks that arise during map-drawing.
Unfortunately I can’t let myself do too much map-drawing otherwise I would never get around to doing anything else. So here are a few thoughts on creating maps:
Write on the map
It saves time to write notes directly on the map. It allows for a better work flow if you don’t have to write on 2 different sheets or documents. For those of you who are artistically inclined it might not be fun because too much writing on the map makes for an ugly final product. But you’ll be the only one looking at the map so a lot of time can be saved by not caring about the looks of the map.
Let the players and their characters work on the map
One of the best worlds I’ve created was almost completely drawn by a player. When the party would explore an unknown area I would draw a very rough copy of my map and let the cartographer of the group draw it. The more skilled he became at cartography – both as a player and a character – the better the map I would draw for the party.
As the players traveled the world the map would expand and lots of details were added – the climate, the type of creatures encountered, odd places they wanted to explore, sites of their great victories, where they got owned by a red dragon, whatever. The end result was a map 10 times richer than the one I originally drew, and it was fairly accurate.
Note: I wrote an article on drawing dungeon maps that could also apply to drawing world maps.
Do you have any nifty map-drawing tricks?
I’d love to hone my skills! Feel free to share your knowledge.