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C.C. Hogan

Tutorial: Creating a Fantasy Map

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Geography is the bedrock of civilisation

Using Your Map for Planning

Once you have your basic map with major features like mountains, rivers and major towns, you can now incorporate it into your planning process.

It is very important to realise that your map can continue to evolve, but be very, very careful about removing anything! Mountains generally do not go away, so if you remove one much later, you may need to make sure that it has not affected any of your character's travel plans from earlier.

I find the things I add later are roads, villages and smaller rivers and streams. As I write the story, and my characters travel across the map, if they stop at a village for lunch, I will note this down in two places: my OneNote notes and on my map. They might never visit that village again, but it might come up. "Remember that beef stew we had in, what was that village called?"

I will also use it for marking out journeys that occur during the story. As much as possible I try and do this in advance - it helps me work out how many days it will take them to travel along the route, see what problems they might have, no water perhaps, and any other issues.

As part of that process I will sometimes leave myself a bookmark, a big red disc or similar that I move along the map as I write. This is invaluable when some idiot client phones when I am in mid adventure! When I get off the phone, I know where my characters are. 

Layers also play an important part in story development. In my current Saga I have a gap of some 500 years between the trilogies. Although the mountains haven't moved and neither have the major rivers, borders have. Small kingdoms are now big ones, villages have sprung up and others vanished, roads have moved either in location or importance and all those other changes that happen over time. By dividing my map into layers and giving the layer names dates, I can change the map as I need by hiding layers. 

Lastly, a very good use for this kind of working map is for troop movements. Again, using a layer, you can add symbols to represent formations or people and shift them around as you write your battle. If you make sure the background layers are locked, then you will find selecting your roving elements easier.

Planning a battle

Weather

You may want to add a couple of guides to your map to mark out the equator, tropics, arctic circle and so on so that you can keep a track on the weather. 

If your story is continent encompassing, you may well find that it is winter in one part of the story, but summer at the same time somewhere else. 

Weather is a character as much as anything else, so WHERE you are might well effect what sort of help or hinderance the weather will be. Using your map in association with some sort of timeline is very useful indeed!

Next: Pretty Maps »


  1. Tutorial: Creating a Fantasy Map
  2. The Tools
  3. The importance of mapping
  4. Your Working Map
  5. Using Your Map for Planning
  6. Pretty Maps

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