20 Apr Maps in RPGs – A Guest Blog Post by Christian Mintert

I was recently looking for some cartographers on the Cartographer’s Guild, and I was approached by a number of talented cartographers. Christian was one of the artists whose work really appealed to me. On top of that, he even sent me an application piece because he was so inspired by the Infected setting. Unfortunately, due to financial and space constraints, I didn’t end up going with him… and he ended up making me a piece for free, just because he was so inspired (and because he is clearly passionate about cartography). I’ve got to say, that is something I don’t see a lot of. I was very impressed, so I asked Christian if he could share some of his thoughts on cartography for RPG designers. Who knows, if we’re lucky he might even do a few of them!
Today I want to talk about maps in RPG´s. Their use is obvious, like all other art. It helps the player and GM to familiarize themselves with the setting, gives them a feeling about character and location. In short the immersion gets deeper. All those questions about relative locations and travel times get answered pretty quickly, things that are difficult to describe and important to keep logic and consistency intact.
So you have written your shiny new adventure or campaign setting and now you need to visualize it. Art is something that helps and Oliver wrote a nice blog entry on that. What about maps. As always there are two options, first one is creating it yourself, the other one is commission it to someone else.
Whatever it is you decide, the first steps are the same for both. Draw a sketch. However artistically challenged you think you are that is something that makes life easier for everyone down the road. Probably you have some location names, put them in.
Then you should give some thought about the mood of the map. Should it be like a map from an atlas, or something for a children’s tale, gritty or funny. The more information you have on these subjects the better you can communicate them to others and perhaps some open questions for your setting will be answered in the process.
Next are really technical questions. How large should the map be and what kind of resolution do you need. If you want to print it a 300 dpi resolution is the least you want. If you are going to use it in a book there are certain requirements by your printer. Look into that. Should the map be in black and white ( grayscale ) or full colour? Detail is a question that always pops up, do you want to use a generic icon for every city on your map or shall the icon be specific for every city. Perhaps you have seen a map you like, you should mark it for reference. What is your deadline?
After deciding on all those questions you should have some kind of “Wanted”-Paper, a summary of your demands. Now you can fire up your favorite image editor and paint away or you commission your work to a specialist. Then you should think about your budget. As stated in the article about art it is not cheap. A map in A4 with full colour and individual icons and high detail will take many hours to complete. The price really depends on your demands, to be negotiated with the cartographer. A commission contract can be very detailed, including how many changes are included and how the artwork may be used. Most artists will keep the copyrights or charge extra for it.
In the end you hopefully hold a beautiful map tailored to your needs and representing the world or story  you created. For me an RPG Setting without a map is like a bread without butter 😉
If you like you can check out some of my work on https://troedel.artstation.com/
Thanks for reading and best wishes,
~ Christian Mintert
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