Ten Rules for Fantasy Maps

Feel free to disagree with any of the rules, but PG suggests you may wish to provide reasons or examples of exceptions from meatspace.

Thanks to Felix for the tip.

7 thoughts on “Ten Rules for Fantasy Maps”

  1. This was very interesting, thank you!

    Just a thought for the next time you decide to tweak the appearance of the blog:

    It might be just my browser (Chrome), but the frame on the right side of the screen is a really nice looking parchment-looking brown. It’s very attractive. However, the text on it is mostly yellow, which makes it extremely difficult to read–there’s not enough contrast between font and background. The white text is much easier, but ideally, I wish your frame text was plain old boring readable black. Please consider this!

    • Ashley. this sounds a bit odd so I wonder what kind of device you are using? In Chrome on my PC the right hand frame (holding the recent posts, etc.) has a brown background which is actually an image of a shelf of (probably leather bound) books. The text on top of it is a mixture of white and a light brown (no yellows) and presents no legibility problems. I also use a couple of Android tablets and these look the same as on the PC and give no problems.

      Maybe there is some obscure appearance setting or theme causing your difficulty?

  2. I wonder if this guy is the one who pontificated on tor.com a while back about such things, he’s got similar issues. However, on a few points I quibble, as did commenters on tor’s site. He went on too long, so I didn’t watch the whole, just skipped through. I paused on one bit where he was going on about no solo mountains. I point to Mount Shasta in California. Or Olympus MOns on Mars. Volcanoes and ex-volcanoes are perfectly plausible solo mountains. So are rather rectilinear ranges, see the Hungarian plateau and surrounding ranges. So – take what’s useful, but check in the real world.

    • He explicitly mentions volcanoes as solitary mountains.

      But do consider that Shasta is part of the Ring of Fire. He also talks about Kilimanjaro. And points out it isn’t really alone. It’s companions are spread out and smaller. A similar case as the Hawaiian islands: a hot spot in the mantle burning through the crust as the plate moves over it.
      In general mountains come from uplift as plates collide or volcanoes burning through. The former produces mountain ranges, the latter spread out siblings.

      And he also emphasized the 11th tip: feel free to ignore the other ten as long as you’re doing it on purpose.

  3. I’ve seen these tips in history (locations of port cities and settlements) and sci-fi worldbuilding books / sites. I thought the terrain rules are a great way for an author to insert a clue about whether a terrain was a case of “a wizard did it” or “a mad scientist did it” or in one case, the character is walking through gateways to other worlds at odd points. As always, knowing the rules helps you in breaking them in cool ways.

    He doesn’t mention this software, but I bought Wonderdraft for mapmaking. Looks fun, but I haven’t had time to truly test it. Campaign Cartographer has been around for a while for that purpose, too; I understand it also offers city-building and fractal world making.

    He does mention Anvil, which I looked at a while back. However, it’s like Adobe CC in that you have to subscribe forever, and only a paid subscription keeps your stuff private. Campfire Pro doesn’t require a subscription; you buy it and own it.

    Also, I recommend watching talking-head videos at 1.25 speed 🙂


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